Southgates was the go to place on a Sunday afternoon.
Grandad would see how many families and friends he could round up and we would all troop down to the dunes in a convoy. Although, sometimes it would be just me and him.
Each year that I grew older I would slowly learn the changing map of those dunes a little better.
For example, dog bush. The bush that stood alone in the middle of the sand, which must have had an unwritten rule that obligated all dogs to stop and pee on, it seemed.
I was taught the ritual of letting air out of the tyres, and then how to pump them back up at the fuel station.
How to change gears.
I was shown how to change a tyre.
To avoid driving on seaweed.
Always stick to the left.
To always stop before continuing to ensure the other side was okay to go down, because once you start you have to commit.
I have numerous stories, unique and common.
One time we were in a convoy and the biggest four wheel drive got stuck. Several others tried to pull them out and all got bogged as well. It was a mess. We had several cars stuck, and only Grandad’s little old Suzuki left. It started to rain. The tide was rising. People were panicking.
But not Grandad. One at a time he got the snap strap and pulled each of the four wheel drives out.
Lets just say, his little Suzie didn't get the brunt of a joke again.
Slowly as I grew up we went out to Southgates less and less.
Until I had my own licence, my own little (but newer) suzie.
I took friends out there, and then friends began to get their own four wheel drives and take us there.
We taught each other the fundamentals of four wheel driving that we had learnt from family, debated the best tracks and all in all learnt how to have a good time. It was a haven from school, people and work.
There was always bulldozers out there. They had threatened development for years. It became a conspiracy. I mean, none of us believed anyone that had been out there could actually destroy it.
Now I hear it is a possibility. A plan.
And all I can think is my Grandad’s rule:
Always check the other side, before going down. Once you start you have to finish the descent.
What I want to see on the other side of this is Southgates as a place to take my own children and grandchildren one day. A place to teach them how to drive, and how to enjoy life. A place to create memories and explore.
But what I am seeing is something completely different.
So before we start to go down this road, can I just ask;
Is it something you can commit to, because once the wheels start rolling, where do we stop?