I am late to the party, but I wanted to contribute.
I worry a lot about automation and the cloud destroying or removing all the sysadmin jobs out there…
I had the same concern a while back when I started studying. Cloud and automation will not destroy future SysAdmin jobs. Cloud providers offer you the ability to scale your project without the need to have physical hardware.
What’s the best way to learn Azure (or AWS) for a guy alone with a single computer in a bedroom?
This is quite an easy answer. You can learn Azure and AWS for free. If you spend more than 30$/month on your stack while learning, you aren’t doing the right thing. The concept in Azure and AWS stay the same as if you were local. They haven’t reinvented the wheel. If you have some knowledge of virtualization with VMware and Hyper-V, you have the basics. I spoke with two folks at Microsoft that are working in Azure (they have over 20+ years of knowledge each if you are asking) and they told me to focus on the same thing: Azure Compute, Azure Storage, and Azure Network. They also told me to watch YouTube videos on Azure that are less than a year old to get the closest up-to-date knowledge.
My goal is to be solid in the latest Windows Server (with PowerShell, Exchange, Hyper-V, System Center) AND Linux near intermediate to senior level (in both) and learn a little Cisco on the side just Routing and Switching… AFTER learn Azure…
In a year or two, you will not achieve that goal, or, we do not have the same definition of solid knowledge. Reality will make you grow way faster than you think. You are picking on subjects that require knowledge AND experience combined to be solid.