Travel

Find Your Flow State at the Pump Track

In Inglewood, a first-of-its-kind pump track has become a new home for LA's biking community.

Photo by Harrison Hill for Thrillist
Photo by Harrison Hill for Thrillist
Photo by Harrison Hill for Thrillist

In 2024, revenge travel is out. Finding peace, and your new passion, is in. This year is an opportunity to pump the brakes-to look up, turn in, get lost, ride along. We’ve collected 12 stories, each of which highlights a pursuit or experience that embodies this mindset. We hope they act as inspiration for the year to come-the beginnings of your very own 2024 mood board. A huge patch of grass in the heart of Edward Vincent Jr. Park in Inglewood is gone now, torn up and replaced with asphalt-and it’s a beautiful thing. On a brisk Tuesday morning, more than a dozen people bike and skate over undulating hills of charcoal gray, sweeping across red-streaked curves, turning quick laps around the Inglewood Pumptrack, a new home for the biking community and the first permanent pump track in LA.

Pump tracks are a type of special course for personal wheeled vehicles-bikes, skateboards, scooters-composed of a series of hills and dips of varying sizes called rollers, interwoven with tight turns called berms. The course is designed such that if you properly use your momentum, pump your legs up and down over the rollers, swoop through the berms, you can complete entire laps without pedaling or pushing. It’s both a great introduction to technical riding and its own form of meditation.

Eliot Jackson and his mother, Joi, are driving forces behind the track. Eliot is a cyclist himself, a former top 10 downhill mountain bike racer and a fixture on the World Cup circuit throughout his decade-long career. At his first World Cup, though, Eliot noticed that he was one of few people of color there, and throughout his career he found a distinct lack of diversity in the professional biking world. After he retired, he made it his mission to try to change that, creating Grow Cycling in 2020, a foundation dedicated to making bicycle sports a more inclusive and welcoming place for underrepresented communities.Providing a permanent, reliable place for city kids to bike is hugely important to that mission. Eliot remembers struggling to find consistent places to ride in his childhood: “We would build dirt jumps and then you come back and the city has plowed them… and even mountain bike trails, fire can come, people build houses.” So, he says, “the idea of a permanent place [for biking] is super foreign.”

Building one in the middle of urban Inglewood is a step beyond that. Many of the best biking tracks are in the mountains, in ski resorts during the summer, or in remote destinations that are hard to visit, especially for young people from the heart of LA. “Even in Southern California, my mom would drive me half an hour or 45 minutes every day,” says Eliot, “and then a lot of the really good trails were like two and a half hours away.”

Photo by Harrison Hill for Thrillist
Photo by Harrison Hill for Thrillist
Photo by Harrison Hill for Thrillist

When Eliot and Joi began planning the project in 2020, they knew they wanted to bring it into the concrete-dense, park-deprived sprawl of greater LA. After extensive research into various local government bodies and personalities, they found Inglewood to be the best fit, culturally and politically.

The independent city in southwest LA has a prestigious place in Black history, and it’s become known for art, culture, and a forward-thinking mindset. Inglewood was an important presence in the early days of hip-hop, in the evolution of the NBA with the Showtime Lakers, and in the modern era thanks to cultural touchstones like Insecure and SoFi Stadium.

It’s a notable place for the Jackson family, too; many of them went to Cozier Middle School and played and rode bikes on these streets. So this project was a homecoming, an opportunity for them to, as Eliot puts it, show Black joy, put the success of the city on display, and bring cycling to a community of color in a way that’s positive, not exploitative. Inglewood is in a period of change, with multiple new stadiums and an influx of business, outside attention, and convergent signs of gentrification; that made protecting free space for local kids feel even more important.The Inglewood Pumptrack was in development for some three years, which is a long time if you’re counting the seconds but lightning quick for a public works project. The Jacksons worked closely with Sabrina Barnes, Inglewood’s Director of Parks, Recreation, and Library Services, who turned out to be a great partner for the project. She understood their vision and helped them find the right spot in the right park.

From there, Eliot got in touch with industry friends at Velosolutions, Yeti, and Santa Cruz Bicycles for sponsorship and to help spread the word. Most of the funding didn’t come from big-name companies, though-they drew an outpouring of contributions from bikers around the world, with more than 4,500 individual donors. “That was a special moment for me personally, just because I’ve spent most of my life in this community, I’ve loved this community, loved riding bikes,” Eliot says. “To have this incredible support from so many friends [means so much].”

The Jacksons have plans to use the pump track as a foundation for a much bigger urban initiative. “You can see this thing starting to take shape where this place is the platform and the starting point. How do we provide people careers? How do we provide education?” Eliot asks. Grow Cycling is already leading cycling programs in schools, putting on events, and hosting an online job board. “Our mission is to create opportunities for underrepresented communities using the bike.”

Photo by Harrison Hill for Thrillist
Photo by Harrison Hill for Thrillist
Photo by Harrison Hill for Thrillist

Even on a weekday afternoon, the Inglewood Pumptrack is well populated by bikers and skaters of all ages and ability levels, from wiry dudes on BMX bikes flying around the course to kids barely old enough to ride grooving gently through the track. There are children riding with their parents, packs of teenagers playing TikTok rap on tinny phone speakers, rad late middle-aged folks dropping in at top speed wearing full pads, and everyone in between.

There are two different courses: the Woodlands Track, which is smaller, designed to be both easier and a little more technical; and the World Championship Track, a behemoth with big rollers and swooping berms that was built in a mirrored design so that two riders can start on opposite ends and complete laps at the same time. That name is no accident, either-Eliot and Joi do plan to host World Championship competitions here.It’s an impressive feat of engineering, and when you sit at the flat lip on top of a berm waiting to drop in, the courses are also strikingly beautiful. They’re surrounded by grassy slopes, dotted with trees, ringed with palms, dappled with winter sun filtered through foliage and diffused by smog. The winding asphalt lays out in front of you-at first it’s foreboding, but drop in and the fear melts away. The first laps will leave your forearms sore and your knuckles white, but eventually the pumping motion becomes more natural, you settle into the rocking, find that easy bliss-it’s a pure flow-state generator.

The Inglewood Pumptrack is a platform to build community around cycling, a place for people to learn to ride, a sorely needed space to gather and hang out. But none of that would work if it wasn’t also, on a base level, incredibly fun. “That feeling on a pump track,” Eliot says, “it’s like nothing else.”Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.

Ben Mesirow is Thrillist’s LA Staff Writer, and an Echo Park native who writes TV, fiction, food, and sports. At one time or another, his writing has appeared in The LA Times, Litro, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Los Angeles Magazine, and scratched into dozens of desks at Walter Reed Middle School.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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