Everybody needs a good spot (or three) to practice ‘cross between races. I know of two courses, Tabor and Creston Park, that are just so awesome I want to do them all the time. And I mean do do them. They’re that good. However, the problem with those spots is, there doesn’t seem to be a time of day you can go work out when you won’t almost immediately get yelled at by people with off-leash dogs or off-leash children or both, no matter how respectfully you ride, or how much you alter the course from lap to lap to leave a huge margin between yourself and their hairy little monsters. Everybody’s a friggin’ park-cop when they see a bike on their turf…
I kid. I actually totally understand people getting a little worked up over us riding fast through the parks, on trajectories that are likely quite hard for them to predict. Sure, they can come off as a little rude occasionally, but I get it, and the last thing I want to do is ruin somebody’s good time. It’s tough to enjoy myself when I know I’m bumming other people out.
There is hope, though! In a lovely place called St. Johns there exists a park culture that’s just a little more laid back, where people care less about their safety and the safety of their dogs and children, and where there is much more of an anything-goes-even-smoking-drugs-in-public type attitude. At the center of this place sits Cathedral Park, and if shredding hard without being scolded is your game, then this is your place.
A few years back, Moho and Veed mapped this course out (or something very similar), and I still get down to business about once per week on it. It’s too fun to not share, so follow along and learn something new!
The start is in the upper right of this first picture. Map #1 has the first half of the course, map #2 has the 2nd, and then there are a whole slew of photos to show the details.
This is where we start the race from. It’s not part of the course once you’re doing laps. This is right under the bridge, facing SE.
We take the first right, onto the crappy pavement.
Blow through the stop sign and take your chances with the remote control locomotives. You’ve got to admit, if you’re gonna get killed, getting killed by an unmanned train is a pretty cool way to go.
Turn right as you cross the tracks, onto the gravel next to them.
Continue on, back towards the bridge. You’ll stay on this strip until just past the 2nd bridge support.
After the bridge support, turn left and go through here, then turn left again right away.
You’ll see this park bench. Go right behind it, and stay left of the light post. It smells like weed in this area pretty often. Must be a good weed-smokin’ bench.
Go left around this tree (behind the light post in the above picture), and to the right of the coniferous tree just beyond it. If you go close to the first tree, roots will smash your genitals into your saddle for you, if you’re into that. I prefer to use the rumble strips on the side of highways to get the job done, but the roots ain’t bad.
Past that last tree, transition onto the path, heading towards the river. Stay right of the wooden stubs. Or left. I don’t suppose it really matters. Slalom them if you’re a true baller.
Peel right off of the path before the walkway to the dock, and head down around this tree, going to the left side.
Exit that turn pointed towards the little stone terrace (it’s tough to see in this picture, but it’s right in the middle). Sprint as fast as you can here, to test your dismount nerves!
Do the dismount, jump, remount dance here. Stay on the far left if you’re tall. Go to the right side if you’re tiny, or a sissy. Ride around it if you’re both!
After you’re back in the saddle, turn left slightly, and head for that tunnel in the trees in the center of the photo.
Straight ahead! Transition onto the paved path at the other end.
This path. You’re going to stay on it until that bench on the right that you can’t really see.
Go around this bench, and then straight in the direction my camera is pointed in.
This is what’s in the shadows of the picture above. Dead ahead!
Shoot through this gap in the bank of trees. It will be right in front of you. Bend to the left as you exit.
Go around that tree that’s in the center, on the right side.
Cross the little gully and go through this gap. Swing around the left side of the light pole at the top (hard to see here), and point yourself back down the hill.
Go around the right side of the tree that’s centered in this picture. Do almost a full 180, because you’ll cross the gully again.
This is the line once you make the turn around the tree. As you go through that gap, veer right.
Again, you can choose roots or no roots, depending on what your undercarriage is in the mood for. Keep bending right and you’ll smoothly transition back onto a paved path, right near where that Sasquatch is loafing (I don’t remember seeing that person at the time)(unexplained mystery!).
This path. Take it.
Go to the left here, on the grass. Bend it gently. Bend it like Backham. I didn’t like that movie. I like this turn though. Go FAST, as fast as you can! It will be muddy a lot of the time.
Aim for the RR crossing sign. That’s where the paved path crosses the RR tracks, which is where you want to go.
Turn right around the lamppost, and continue on the paved stuff.
You’re going to head off of the path to the right and go around this stand of trees.
That dude was definitely smoking weed. He probably won’t be there when you are though. He’ll be over on that one bench. Oh, and parallel the sidewalk on the grass ’til the end tell a friend, bitch.
Go through this gap and head for the left side of the telephone pole. Don’t worry about cars, because you’re working out and they’re just driving, so you win.
Go straight up this huge hill! Exactly where the camera is pointed, right up the middle. It sucks, but it will give you the strength of a bear who has the strength of two bears, so it’s worth it.
Between the bridge supports, and across the grass over to the paved path.
Turn to the right around the light post at the top there, and head for the stairs.
Run up the stairs! Do it faster than you think you can, because maybe you’ll puke, and that’s bonus workout points! These stairs are exactly wrong for single- or double-stepping, so they will drive you nuts. Oh, you’re going off the right side at the top step, not through the stone gap.
Right here. Remount, and head down around the pregnant tree, on the left side of it. Execute a 155 degree turn. It will point you in the right direction.
Back up the hill! Go to the right of the bushes, and then parallel the stairs back down.
This part might be confusing to explain. You hit the pavement to the left of the near stone wall, then turn right, ride across the pavement, and go around the right side of the right hand bridge support, then turn left and ride around the overlook landing thing on the grass…
… until you’re pointed at that light post. Now go down the hill as fast as your legs will take you! There are some hidden bumps, so, you know, go over them good, I guess?
And then charge around the bowl of the amphitheater. You wouldn’t believe how poorly I spelled “amphitheater” the first time. My spell check was suggesting “leatherette,” so I was pretty far off.
Keep bending to the right, and use this little berm to shred ultra hard. Go to the left side of that tree that’s in the center.
Exit that turn, and go to the right of the tree in the center of this picture. 180 that sumbitch (170, more like it).
Take this line to the left of that big, ugly, past-its-prime tree down there.
Charge out into the street, and you’re done with a lap! Now do more of them until you’re the fastest person in all of St. Johns, or until you find a really fresh weed cloud, and go stand in it and get second hand high. Seriously, so many people smoke weed in this park, I’m surprised there aren’t black light posters stapled to trees of aliens sitting on mushrooms with rasta hats on. It makes me so happy to see people partying!
I know that the folks reading this might very well be as far as hundreds of miles away from me, such is the magic of the internet, but if you happen to be in this region of the world, and you want to do a weekday early-morning or lunchtime session with me, we should set somethign up in the comments!
The Tiniest Sprinter
PS: I’ve been a bit off of rap recently, on a big Mister Chill’R kick (word’s oldest DJ), but not so off that I wasn’t super stoked when somebody reminded me of this ittle number: