My friend Anthony was nice enough to invite me to stay at his place in Sheboygan, Wisconsin over spring break. It was a much-needed change of pace after a couple of months of engineering classes and exams and the harsh winter in Houghton. The weather was incredible during my stay, with temperatures getting above 60F on Monday and getting close to that again on Friday.
Sheboygan is a surprisingly nice town to spend time in (I don't know why I'm surprised, I just didn't expect a whole lot), with a nice waterfront and a decent downtown area. We kept pretty busy, biking as much as possible as well as cooking whatever we felt like and meeting up with Anthony's friends in town.
I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with his dogs as well. It seemed to help a little with how much I miss mine at home.
I bought a dirtjumper from a guy on craigslist on the Monday of break (because I sure needed another mountain bike!). We took advantage of the weather and were able to get out riding every day from then on. We spend a lot of time just messing around in the streets by Anthony's house, but also made a few trips for more excitement and variety.
We spent a day acting like punks finding fun things to ride downtown, including stairs, barriers, walls, curbs, and parking lot islands. We even got kicked out of a motel parking lot, which was a first for me. It a remarkably pleasant experience.
During two of the colder days, we made the drive to Ray's Indoor MTB park in Milwaukee. It's a very unique bike park that is entirely contained within an old Menard's building. The amount of terrain and riding features crammed inside is incredible. It takes a bit of getting used to, but I was pretty comfortable after visiting twice previously this year with the MTU cycling club.
Ray's has a fast and fun pumptrack and a foam pit along with all of their standard technical and jump trails. It's a really good place to practice technique try out tricks that you wouldn't be comfortable with otherwise, or just mess around.
Paradigm Coffee & Music
Sheboygan is home to a Paradigm Coffee & Music, a really awesome coffee shop that is one of Anthony's favorite hangouts. It has a vibrant but laid-back atmosphere, with high vaulted ceilings and bikes hanging from pillars everywhere. The furniture mostly consists of comfy old couches and low tables, and local artist's displays decorate most of the walls.
There's a stage and sound system set up for live music performances. They offer a good variety of food and drinks including reportedly excellent coffee from the Milwaukee roaster Collectivo. I highly recommend Paradigm's Tangerine Ginger Tea and Zeus Sandwich.
The basement of Paradigm is home to ReBike, Sheboygan's bicycle rehabilitation program. Bikes are donated by community members, and then parted out or restored by volunteers during weekly Wednesday night sessions.
Everyone I met who was involved was very passionate about bikes and loved working there. There are similar programs in cities all around the world that have sprung up to help ensure that bikes don't go to waste and the people have access to affordable, healthy, and environmentally friendly transportation.
Thanks to Anthony's parents for being such gracious hosts over the break, and for putting up with all of our bikes scattered around their house.
After a late-night video planning session, some guys from the cycling club invited me to go snowshoeing in Copper Harbor the next day. We took advantage of our free first time rentals from the outdoor adventure program. Quite a few poeple were waiting for snowshoes when we got there.
After the drive to Copper Harbor, we climbed up Brockway Mountain and followed the Overflow downhill mountain bike trail back down. It was pretty different seeing the trail on foot in the winter compared to riding it in the summer.
The snow was practically untouched. We managed to stay on top most of the time, but there were spots where it was easy to sink in to the waist. We saw some faint downhill ski tracks, but no other signs of people.
Like with any good adventure, tree climbing was in order. Snowshoing can be as exciting as you make it. I think extreme snowshoing could definitely take off.
Winter Carnival is legendary at Michigan Tech. Classes are cancelled on Thursday and Friday, and that combined with the all-nighter on Wednesday night and the snow statue contest makes for a crazy four-day weekend.
Leading up to the all-nighter, I heard a lot of wild stories and rumors of drunken masses and hospitalizations. I had low expectations, but these tales turned out to be pretty accurate. The night started off pretty tame, with mostly statue workers and school employees on campus, but as it got later, campus slowly became saturated with students of varying levels of inebriation.
I spent the early part of the night drifting around between groups of people I recognized and looking at the statue work. Once it got late, it was time to take advantage of the $5 all-night unlimited pancakes being served in Fisher Hall. Once it started to get a little crazier we decided to head back to the dorms and settle in for what was left of the night.
There were a few incidents, but fortunately, the student body as a whole was very friendly and respectful. Campus safety was everywhere, but seemed pretty reasonable and accepting of the situation.
Winter Carnival doesn't end after the all-nighter is over, but there is a lull while everyone recovers from the night. Over the weekend, campus is ruled by local and foriegn families alike admiring the statues, getting dogsled rides, and watching the constant broomball games.
All in all it was a great time.