Not long ago, I went biking in Wharton State Forrest in Southern New Jersey. Alone. Normally, I have a riding buddy; however, he couldn’t go because he fell down the steps and was bruised and sore. I was committed to going because biking is something I tremendously enjoy. So, I whipped out my map, downloaded some information from a website and loaded up the bike rack!
You should know that I rarely ride in the woods, and I’VE NEVER BIKED IN THE WOODS ALONE. I’m a paved trail kind of girl. By the time, I made my way to Batsto Village, the trail’s starting point, I was 50% scared. The area was very rural, and New Jersey has bears and wild hogs in some places (and I hear those things are aggressive). Further, given all of the race-based venom that has dominated our national media lately, I was bit apprehensive because I saw nobody who looked like me (and I hear NJ still has active Klan meetings in some areas). By this point, I was 100% scared and thinking that maybe I should’ve brought a weapon or something. Even so, I got out of my car and unloaded.
Wharton State Forest has trails for hiking, biking, camping, and a few other things. So, I saw a side that said “Biking Trail Starts Here”, and I took off. However, I quickly got lost. The path wasn’t very clear, and I was looking for a straight path that took me on a wide circuitous loop. Literally, I went in a circle for the first five minutes and wound up back at the parking lot. People looked at me strangely, and one person, there’s always one, who couldn’t resist the urge to tell me that I was on the hiking path with my bike.
I was annoyed and a little embarrassed. I hate unsolicited advice with a passion, and I hate people who come off as know-it-alls (I really do mean “hate”…God is still working on me). For a minute, I thought about putting that bike back on the rack and riding to Philly, familiar territory. However, I saw a booth and a couple of information stations close to the parking lot and decided to check them out. On one of those maps, I learned that there were color-coded markers to help you find your way through the gigantic forest, whether you were pedaling, walking, or in a motorized wheelchair! Off to the woods, I go again. This time, I was a wee bit more confident, but still a bit hesitant. I just knew all of those people who saw me start the route before would see me start again, and so would that know-it-all woman.
I approach the trail again, and I see that the green discs are everywhere! Green = bikes go this way! I swear I didn’t see a single green disc the first time. For the first 10 minutes of my ride, I religiously looked for those discs. If I didn’t see not only the one closest to me, but also the one coming up, I freaked out. I started singing old negro spirituals back there. I was terrified. I did not want to be the stupid woman who died in the woods alone (Even in death, people criticize, i.e., She shouldn’t have gone back there by herself!).
However, after about 30 minutes, I noticed that I was a little less frantic. I was still looking for the discs; however, I knew I could simply glance up and see one. I needed lots of reassurance; however, I felt less feverish about it. Then, I hit one particularly long stretch, and I realized that I hadn’t looked up for a green disc in a while and I didn’t see one…and I had to tell myself to keep pedaling. I was in the thick of the woods and turning back was silly. I had no sense of direction in there. The route had taken so many twists and turns that I couldn’t back-track anyway. I told myself to breathe and keep pedaling. I told myself that a green disc would turn up soon…and it did. Then, I came upon a HUGE mud puddle with a green disc very close by…and I was like, “Dang, I gotta go around this nastiness to stay on this trail? Is there not a different path?” Seriously, I stood in front of that puddle for like 5 minutes debating whether to move forward through the mud or inch my way through on the edges of it.
Eventually, I even grew confident that the discs would be there. I even began to appreciate the pink and blue discs, too. Although they weren’t for me and my bike, they were signs of life.
As I rode, I noted that the paths were quite narrow and some of the tree limbs were too low for my liking, I finally developed enough confidence to slow down and take in the scenery…and to talk to God. At that point, I felt safe. After I told him all that was wrong with me, my life and all my frustrations, something dropped in my spirit, “God is a green disc”.
I pedaled back to my car and went home.