Last week we had an incident where the google aerial view and coordinates of our trails were posted on Facebook by some cyclocross guys. Our trails aren’t exactly top secret or anything but we do try to limit who all knows their location. Mainly it’s to not raise the attention of anyone living in the surrounding neighborhood. See our trails are located in what you might call the hood. The last thing we need is a bunch of ghetto kids realizing that there are large mounds of dirt for them to run up and down on just blocks away from their houses. For that reason we purposely made the main entrance to the trails well out of site of the neighborhood. While posting the aerial view and coordinates may have given people the trails location, it didn’t give the location of the entrance to use as to not attract attention. That was my main problem with the whole deal. Luckily for them I’ve mellowed out as I’ve gotten older. Rather than going to their houses and cutting their bikes in half, I calmly explained to them why posting that kind of info was a no no. They took it down so everything was all good. The senario did get me thinking about how much things have changed over the years with regards to finding trails. In particular I got to thinking about how I found Posh and Drexelbrook. Now days social media and google make it relatively easy to find your way to new trails, but let’s rewind back to when things were quite a bit different.
The year was 1997 and information moved a whole hell of a lot slower. The only glimpse into the BMX world outside of my little scene came once a month via the mail man or occasionally when someone would scrounge the money together to order a video. Being relatively poor back then meant that rather than buying videos I had to trade something for them. I don’t remember what I traded to get a copy of S&M’s BMX Inferno, and it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that I was able to trade that video for one by the name of 1201, and it changed my world. You see in that time if you opened up a BMX magazine you would think that yourself and your circle of friends were the only ones who rode BMX who didn’t live in California. That magazines were based there and the majority of their photos came from Sheep Hills and other spots within driving distance of their offices. So when I popped in 1201 and saw that there were people doing the exact same things as us on this coast, I got stoked. The Eastern PA section really stood out to me for two reasons. The trails looked awesome and Pennsylvania was directly above Maryland which is where I lived at the time.
Immediately after watching 1201 I hatched a plan to go to Pennsylvania. I discussed it with my one friend who actually had a car and he was in. One immediate problem with the plan was the fact that the only knowledge we had as to where we were going was that it was in Eastern PA. The trip was on hold until a bit of luck stuck us at the BMX track. We just happened to run into a couple of dudes from Pennsylvania who not only knew the names of the trails we were trying to go to but also the exact town that one of them was in. Posh and Drexelbrook were the names of our destinations, one being in Bethlehem and the other being by a creek somewhere south of Philly. On the way home we picked up a travel atlas and began planning the trip. By our calculations “south of Philly” was only two hours away, and Bethlehem was only an hour further. We decided to make the trip the following weekend and spent the week leading up to our departure trying to hunt down more clues that would help us find the trails. I got all CSI with the magazines that I had and recognized that one of the riders in the Eastern PA section was Little Devil owner Derek Adams. I found a Little Devil ad and it listed the address as somewhere in Morton, PA. A quick look at the atlas revealed that Morton, PA was not too far from a place called Drexel Hill and both were south of Philly. By my reasoning Drexelbrook had to be somewhere in that vicinity. So with that knowledge we loaded our bikes into a Suzuki Samurai and set off.
The thing about a Suzuki Samurai is that it has a top speed of maybe 60 and that’s if you have tailwind and are going downhill. Not exactly the ideal road trip mobile but in a bit over three hours it delivered us to Drexel Hill, PA. Our first idea as to how to find the trails was to find a bike shop and see if anyone knew anything. There were no shops in sight, but we did happen to cross over a creek during the search. It was decided that we abandon looking for a shop and rather search along the creek. We parked in a neighborhood that backed up to the creek and started hunting. It didn’t take long for us to find a path with some bike tracks on it. Once again I broke out the CSI skills and deduced that one of the tracks came from a GT Megabite tire. We followed the path as it wound next to the creek but it eventually just came to a dead end. Not to be defeated we doubled back with the idea that we would head the other direction on the path, but before we made it back to where we had started I noticed something in the creek. Just under the water appeared to be a concrete slab that you could use to get to the other side and a path leading up from it into the woods. We figured that it may be worth exploring that other side of the creek. Even with the slab being there the water was too deep to cross on our bikes. I decided to kick my shoes off, roll up my pants, and cross to the other side while my buddy stayed with the bikes. I waded across and headed up the hill, and what I found was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Just over the crest were an assortment of jumps that were all perfectly smooth, close together, and winding through the trees. We had done it! We had found Drexelbrook! After a quick trip back across to tell me friend and to get my bike it was time to ride. It wasn’t too long until some other kids showed up and eventually Drew who I learned was the head honcho of the trails. Everyone was friendly and was surprised to learn that we had driven all the way from Maryland to ride their trails. A couple fun hours went by and then the thoughts of finding Posh started to creep back into our heads. We asked some of the locals if they knew anything to which they responded that they didn’t. They did, but it was trail code at the time not to give out the location of someone else’s spot. There was no doubt in our minds that we could find Posh since we had just successfully found Drexelbrook, so off to Bethlehem we went.
After an hour or so in the Suzuki we arrived in Bethlehem. Unlike Drexelbrook we didn’t have any kind of landmark to look for in the search. We picked some places on the map that looked like possible spots for trails and went to work. The first spot was close to the river which made sense in our minds since we had found Drexelbrook close to a water source. After only about ten minutes of exploring we were onto something. Hidden in a gully and camouflaged with small tarps painted to blend into their surroundings was a set of trails. I knew by the color of the dirt that they weren’t Posh but in an interesting twist we had stumbled upon a different set of trails. We didn’t stick around for too long as you could just tell that the place was meant to be hidden. We didn’t want to risk pissing off anyone by undoing their camouflaging measures. I later learned that what we had discovered was called Black Track and it was Mike Gentilcore’s place. We drove around for a couple of hours exploring all of the possibile sites that we had circled on the map but were coming up empty handed. Giving up wasn’t an option so we pressed on and eventually came across a bike shop called Action Wheels. When we headed in not only were we greeted by more BMX parts than either of us had ever seen but also by Keith Gower who we recognized from the 1201. He was friendly enough and after some small talk we popped the “do you know where Posh is” question. To which he responded “Posh, what’s that?” We pressed the topic a bit more but with no luck. Goodbyes were said and we headed back to the car.
I remember at this point our moral had hit a low point. We knew that we had to be within a few miles of the Posh, but it was looking like we were going to come up empty. Just as we began discussing whether or not to head back to Drexelbrook I noticed a kid ride by on a yellow Standard. With nothing to lose we rolled up beside him and I flat out asked if he knew where Posh was. I was completely surprised when he said that he did! There was a catch though. He had been there once and had an idea of how to get back but didn’t know the road names to tell us how to get there. We offered to drive him to wherever he was going if he would hop in and show us where Posh was first. Luckily for us his parents must not have instilled in him not to take rides from strangers because he agreed. It took a few wrong turns but he eventually got us to a quiet neighborhood where he thought that it was. The sight of a car with a giant UGP sticker raised our hopes that this was the right place. The kid had to get back home so we headed back towards town to drop him off. We beelined back to the neighborhood where he had brought us but were feeling unsure as to whether he had actually brought us to the right place or not.
The car with the UGP sticker was still in the exact same place as it was when we left so we parked behind it. When we got out I noticed a tiny path heading into the woods that I hadn’t seen before. We rode over to check it out and slowly made our way in. The woods were thick but after a few yards the path opened up and in front of us was what we had come all that way for. We both stood there for a minute taking in what we were looking at. As impressive as Drexelbrook was it was dwarfed by Posh. A whole valley filled with more jumps than we could even fathom. As we headed down the hill we were in for even more of a shock because there working on his bike was none other than Taj Mihelich. He gave us a look up and down, said hey, and went back to working on his bike. To two BMX kids from Maryland seeing Taj was the equivalent of coming face to face with Jesus Christ himself. We put our bikes down and started to walk around to check the place out all while giggling like school girls that we had just met Taj. One thing that made itself very apparently was that Posh had grown a considerable bit since the footage in 1201 had been shot. Everything was a lot bigger and a lot more technical. We didn’t even know where to start, and I mean that quite literally because the trails we were accustomed to riding had a clear starting point where as the lines at Posh seemed to be originating from everywhere. We’d come too far though not to at least attempt to ride. By this time Taj had his bike up and running and every so often you’d hear the rattles coming from it as he went through a line. This was right after he had quit Hoffman bikes, and he was riding a ratty ass S&M Holmes. I mean this thing was an absolute pile! The chain looked to be made of 90% rust and there were noises coming from every part of the bike. Nonetheless it was Taj riding it so despite the rattling his riding was a smooth as butter. As he passed back by from one of his runs I asked him what was good to start on. I swear to god I can still hear his response to this day. “Nothing here” is what he mumbled as he pushed his bike past. Not to be discouraged we followed him up the hill and picked a line to hit. It took a few tries but after a bit we both made it through a line called “Fence Pack” where Chillers now is. One thing worth mentioning is that Fence Pack started with a little step up, and at the time I had never jumped such a thing. For some reason I thought the best way to go about it was to go extra fast. I shit you not that not only did I over clear but I landed so far past the landing with my front end up Evil Knievel style that I fakied the next lip. Pretty sure that was the beginning of my bad wrist. After figuring out the speed everything was all good. We rode Fence for a bit and even got a nod of approval from Taj. Eventually some other people showed up including Jay Lonergan and even Keith Gower. We all had a laugh over his denial of knowing what Posh was. Jay and Gower showed us through some other lines and before we knew it darkness was setting it. Everyone headed out and Jay told us that we were welcome anytime.
Since we didn’t have to be back home until the following evening we decided to sleep in the car so that we could ride Posh again in the morning before heading back. A Suzuki Samurai is less than comfortable to ride in so sleeping in the thing was even worst. Between the excitement of how awesome the day had been and the uncomfortableness of the Suzuki I’d say we got maybe three hours of sleep. As soon as the sun started to come up we made our way back down to the trails and were riding by 6:30 am. It didn’t take very long for the fatigue from the day before to combine with our lack of sleep and bring the riding to an end. We headed back Maryland triumphant that we had found both of the places that we had set out to and were excited to return to them again.
I know that was long and I applaud you if you made it all the way here. It sounds cliche, but that trip seriously changed my life. It not only opened my eyes as to what trails could be but also to the world of traveling. At that point I had only traveled with my family, and it was always some huge overly planned ordeal. Figuring out that you could grab a milk jug filled with change, stuff some clothes in a backpack, throw your bike in the car, and hit the road changed everything. It also didn’t hurt that gas was .79 a gallon back then either!