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110,000 square feet of groomed warehouse space.
110,000 square feet of groomed warehouse space. (Photo: Ray's MTB Indoor Park)
The indoor park catered to people of all types.
The indoor park catered to people of all types. (Photo: Ray's MTB Indoor Park)
Ray's isn't always about big air. It was about developing all types of technical riding skills.
Ray's isn't always about big air. It was about developing all types of technical riding skills. (Photo: Ray's MTB Indoor Park)
Features were improved, renewed, or replaced at the end of each season.
Features were improved, renewed, or replaced at the end of each season. (Photo: Ray's MTB Indoor Park)

Updated: In light of petition, Trek insists they want Ray's MTB to reopen

After it appeared that Ray's MTB Park, 8365 N. 76th St., was near closing, a petition by Wisconsin Freeride Association was floated asking the Wisconsin Bike Fed and Milwaukee County Parks to come together to save it. However Eric Bjorling, a representative of Trek, insisted that they are doing everything they can to keep it open.

"We understand the people's passion for Ray's," said Bjorling.

I reached out to Ray's, Trek Bicycles, Milwaukee County Parks and the Wisconsin Bike Fed. This article has been updated with their responses.

When I asked Dave Schlabowske, the deputy director of the Wisconsin Bike Fed, about the potential purchase of Ray's by the Bike Fed, the outlook was not so good.

"I don't think so," said Schlabowske. "We don't have the kind of resources to purchase something like that. Most of our money is program money, for things like Safe Routes to School or driver's education."

Guy Smith, a representative from Milwaukee County Parks, responded with a quick statement and little hope of being able to honor the petition as well. Smith was familiar with Ray's, but not familiar with the petition. In regards to acquiring the park, they would probably "not have an opportunity to handle something like that."

But Eric Bjorling, a representative from Trek Bicycles projected a brighter future. While no decision has been made, Trek is "working actively to make sure that [closing the Milwaukee location] does not happen" and they see the petition as a positive. "If more people want to kick in, any effort to keep it open would be great."

Among the major reasons for pursuing new ownership and other strategies is that the company does not own the building out of which they operate and finding another building of appropriate size and location is difficult. "Since we don't own the building, it's very difficult to control the future of the park."

The Milwaukee area has tread upon a rocky road when it comes to mountain biking. In 2013, The Rock Sports Complex over…

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Uno Throwdown is an upside-down and backwards version of the original game that might have you questioning the sanity of its creators.
Uno Throwdown is an upside-down and backwards version of the original game that might have you questioning the sanity of its creators.

Uno Throwdown: New rules in the house

We're all connected 24/7 to computers, tablets, phones and television. But there's more to life than being online – even for a digital media company! – so this week we're excited to show you ways to connect with family and friends, even when there's no signal. Steinhafels presents OnMilwaukee Unplugged Week, a celebration of all things analog. Sit back, log into these stories and then log into the real world.

Earlier this week, Jeff Sherman wrote about spending time with the family playing the 45-year old card game Uno. It's easy to learn and fun for kids and adults. As he also mentioned, newer versions of the basic deck might come with variant "house" rules included (and, further still, separate expanded versions feature other unique inclusions like automated card flippers).

Using the idea of those house rules as inspiration, my family and friends created an off-the-wall variant that we call Uno Throwdown. It can be played with a standard deck of Uno cards (though, if you want to cut down on shuffling, I recommend getting two).

The creation of the game happened one night probably a decade ago (this is back when The Buddha Lounge on North Avenue was still the 24-hour coffee shop Node). My younger brother Adam McDowell, my then-girlfriend Chelsea Muench and I, drunk on coffee, began stuffing the rule book with variations. Since then I've never played an "official" game of Uno and we've played it so many times that I can't remember where the official rules end and our crazy rules begin.

It started because I had a handful of six and nine cards, none of them matching, and I wished I could dump them all in one swoop to win the game.

"Sixes and nines should be interchangeable," I declared, but was quickly shot down.

After subsequently losing that game and while dealing out a new hand for the next game, I set the variation. "Okay, this time sixes and nines ARE interchangeable." For whatever reason, my friends allowed the delusion and the game began. As the night progre…

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Santa Cycle Rampage brought out nearly 700 Santas, Mrs. Clauses, elves, Krampuses and more last year.
Santa Cycle Rampage brought out nearly 700 Santas, Mrs. Clauses, elves, Krampuses and more last year.
The 2015 Santa Cycle Rampage hat.
The 2015 Santa Cycle Rampage hat.
The 2015 Santa Cycle Rampage t-shirt.
The 2015 Santa Cycle Rampage t-shirt.

Santa Cycle Rampage goes from free to fee

The Santa Cycle Rampage has been bringing joy via nearly 700 Santas, Mrs. Clauses, elves, Krampuses (and even a Menorah or two) to Milwaukee for 15 years, but while this ride has become as traditional as a Bing Crosby classic, this year the format is evolving. If you want to participate, you'll be expected to pay.

According to organizer Dave Schlabowske via a blog post on the Wisconsin Bike Fed's site, this year the Santa Cycle Rampage is designed to help raise funds for the cycling advocacy organization. "I told everyone who asked that I was not organizing an official Rampage [but] after much haranguing…my fellow Original Santas convinced me to try one more time."

"In order to revive the Santa Cycle Rampage with the Bike Fed taking the lead…we had to make some changes. What we decided to try this year is to charge a fee for registration with a waiver, get permits and pay for insurance."

The official ride happens on December 5th at 9:30AM. It will begin in the land of green bike lanes at Cranky Al's (6901 West North Avenue in Wauwatosa) and follow in the footsteps of July's successful Polish Moon ride, which was a family-friendly slow ride that avoided stops for alcohol.

If you're disappointed by this, don't worry, there will be plenty of unofficial after parties that should look quite familiar to Rampage veterans. "We did contact all the other business owners where Santas traditionally gather in the morning or as post ride parties, and they all agreed to roll out the red carpet for holiday merry makers again this year," said Schlabowske. "We even picked up some new places."

So what's this gonna cost me?

The price of the official Santa Cycle Rampage is $20 for members and $35 for non-members, but that includes a Bike Fed membership, and a hat or event t-shirt. I dig the hat.

"We won’t make much money [on the registration] because between the free hat or shirt, insurance, and permits, our costs add up to nearly that. We will make money from the sponsors of…

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