Riding gives a man time to think, to contemplate on how cruel life can be sometimes, but in all honesty maybe its just a matter of perspective. Either way its these challenges we face that test our patience, build our resilience and lead us to make our choices, both good and bad.
It's these choices which determine our future and teach us the lessons which we must endure. Yep sometimes the choices we make suck but still we need to own it, learn from it and move on. But it is a hard pill to swallow when the actions of others influence your future.
These are the challenges that I must deal with but have no control over, at least not today. No today is about someone else, my daughter, a woman who with three children has her own struggles and who I have not spoken to for some time, through no fault of anyone but circumstance.
Today Coda and I intend to surprise her and hopefully bring cheer to some one else's day. A simple act of kindness is paid in kind with a smile. The feeling of bringing joy to another cannot be under estimated as it is something that will also bring joy to ones self.
We had left Devonport just before 6am to beat the heavy traffic along the road to Forth. With the sun slowly warming our bones from the morning chill, we pass over the Bass Hwy via the overpass and decide that a coffee at the Turners Beach 'Berry Patch' would make for a good place to rest for a spell. They haven't quite opened yet but after a chat with the owner he invites us to tie to a tree which is to the left and I make my way to the window and place my order.
The coffee here is not strong but still satisfies my craving for the moment and after checking Coda's tack and boots we move back along the trail. We decide to follow the bike path along the highway, along the edge of the beach and onto 'Shropshire Naval Memorial Park' which is located by the edge of the Leven River.
Shropshire park was initially established in 1982 to remember the crew of 'HMAS Shropshire' but is now a memorial home to over 100 naval ships with accounts of their histories.
We decide to continue on as we still have some distance to travel. Passing the restaurants 'Pedro's' and 'Pier 01' we move on over the Queen Street bridge receiving a few friendly waves from people as they drive by. From here we decide to continue on through South Road which eventually takes us away from Ulverstone and on towards Penguin to more localised traffic.
The day has become quite warm as we enter Penguin which appears to be busy with people curious to see the wonders of their own beautiful state of Tasmania. The presence of the Doctor's Tardis is an unexpected site but a touching addition to an interesting seaside tourist destination. A family of three stop to talk to Coda who is pleased with the attention and the distraction from the distance travelled so far.
Preservation Drive through Preservation Bay is not as busy as it was in days gone by before the A1 (Bass Hwy) was built. This here was the main highway through to penguin but as is the case when all Federal Highways are built, they bypass towns such as Sulphur Creek who are then forgotten by time, but it is those who build a legacy worthy of your time which survive. 'Dunkies a takeaway shop well known for good takeaway food is one of these so we stop for a break of fish and potato cakes, although Coda is curious she is not keen to try.
Travelling these forgotten routes are a means to an end for us and a more peaceful trail to allow safe passage. As we near the Howth round-about, I remember a path which enables us to move hidden beside the highway for a while. Although Coda is familiar with the noise and turbulence of heavy vehicles along a road, it is always more reassuring to travel on a more secluded path, for it offers us a feeling of security as many drivers do not understand the mind of a horse and so tend to error in their judgements.
A gentleman and his wife stop us for a chat and ask where we are headed. It is getting late in the afternoon and we think of stopping at the rivers edge for a meal and some sleep. They kindly advise that camping is not permitted but offer to meet before the bridge in Heybridge where a coffee break will be waiting. True to their word a cup of strong hot coffee is waiting as well as 2 slices of buttered fruit cake to which l have never had the like. It turns out we have met many years before during my time delivering mail. He was then a true gentleman which time has not changed at all
This is a time easily forgotten in my working life for it was a stepping stone to understanding Government Business Enterprises and the inequities which arise from poor leadership and lack of accountability. These are most certainly issues which 25 years later time has not been able to address because the shroud of illusion is forever present. But it is the passage of time that will finally allow change to occur as the younger generation ask 'why' and call it out for what it is.
Coda is keen to keep moving and pulls me from my thoughts, reminding me of where our focus should be. We must now move along the edge of the highway as we nudge closer to the outskirts of Burnie so my attentions are brought back to the moment and that the numbers of vehicles have increased as people head home from work.
The evening sun provides an ambience of beauty which is hard to find in the concrete of a city, but as we pass the Restaurant 'Leonardoz' our reflection in the window gives me an opportunity to show others what we see, 'a reflection of a moment in time'.
Traffic has increased and curiosity is evident as drivers slow down to look, passengers come alive from the isolation of their phones and move to capture a photo. I guess it is not often a horse and rider appear in these places, the cities where man dominates and horses no longer travel.
As we move to cross the Emu River, Coda is somewhat cautious of the bridge but with encouragement moves forward trusting my words. I tell her how magnificent she is but she knows this already for she is big, beautiful and yes, absolutely fabulous. Biased yes, but the truth is before your eyes.
As we pass Bunnings, I remember a time when this was the site of the Burnie Paper Mill where at its prime produced 22,500 tonnes of paper products per year with almost 4000 workers. The mill was built in 1936 beginning an era that would eventually fade in time and become part of history, for in 2010 the pipes, chimney stacks and industrial sounds ceased to be and the smell of rotting fish which reminded us of its existence became no more.
The old goat track as it was known in my day, allows us to move undetected from South Burnie to the Upper Burnie district. The noise and traffic here is not as evident and so we are able to move along the footpaths without any distractions, past Woolworths and where the local shops are closing for the day. I come to accept that we will not make my daughters residence in the daylight so decide to make use of a backyard kindly offered until the morning. Setting up a yard for Coda, I make use of a child's swing set, fence and shed wall to complete her yard, and strip Coda of her saddle and kit. After a rub down she does her usual roll and continues her routine of eating the grass which is on offer.
For me I lay down, close my eyes and look forward to the knowledge I will see my daughter tomorrow.
As I ready for the days ride, I see the morning rays of the sun peak over the edge of the hills but not so much as to help warm my hands. Saddling up is always a tad uncomfortable with cold fingers but a task to be done never the less. I find comfort in the fact that once we are moving the uncomfortable feeling will fade. Coda is eager to go so once I step into the saddle, I give her the freedom to choose her pace of walk which she does so willingly.
Cheyenne is already up with the children as I can hear the sounds of children negotiating the rules of play. Listening to the early morning sounds around us, I dismount and remove Coda's rope which I drop to the ground to allow Coda to graze. My knock at the door goes unanswered so I knock again, louder. I hear Castiel call his mum and warn her of someone at the door. Cheyenne answers, the look on her face tells me that she is surprised but pleased.
Castiel and Javiah are excited to see their Dakota. You might ask why my children's children use my name and not a particular title. Well you see we don't use the 'O' or 'P' words around me, and I will leave it to your imagination as to what those words might be. It was agreed many years ago that once I can no longer perform a double backflip on a trampoline, which I must do each year on my birthday, only then do I humbly accept that mantle which others have reluctantly accepted before me. Yes age catches up with us all but denial is most powerful ,especially with a stubborn man such as myself.
Vienna the eldest of Cheyenne's three is still in bed but begrudgingly comes out. This young lady enjoys her sleep but thankfully loves her Coda much more. There is much to be said for a child's joy as a hug and a smile do not lie. A child's emotion is as real as it gets and it is us, those responsible for their care who can learn from this.
It is the passage of time which allows us to forget what we felt as a child, where bitterness and regret had no place. Family, there is nothing more important. Yet we work to provide, often sacrificing time we can never get back and so doing become a stranger to those we love. Yes, regrets.
The kids are buzzing with joy as they bring their treasures for me to see. I wouldn't trade these moments for anything and as I finish the coffee Cheyenne had made me, I reluctantly say my goodbyes and saddle up. With one final wave we turn and head for home.
The outer skirts of Upper Burnie are littered with parks and reserves so we are able to ride unhindered amongst the trees and native bird life. As we enter another built up area, a young father and his son are saying their goodbyes so dad can head to work.
They both wave to us as we pass, I turn Coda back so the boy can say hello which the boys father says thank you for taking the time to stop.
The look and smile on the boys face says it all, bringing light to another's day is what it is all about. With our first act of kindness for the day, we continue on and move a step closer to home.
We have travelled back down the goat track and are following the path along the beach front toward the township of Penguin. The sun is putting on a magnificent display for anyone willing to step outside, with this said we meet a man out for a morning walk who stops to talk of our journeys, giving Coda a moment to graze. We talk of the 'My life Of Trails' journey and the possibility of touching base in the future. It has become apparent over the last few years that networking is an important part of expanding ones knowledge, acquaintances and most importantly friends.
The return trip along this section is somewhat more challenging as we must use the emergency lane to travel along the highway. A bird unexpectantly flies out of the shrubs almost hitting Coda's head to which she jumps sideways. Although we are still within the emergency lane, a driver who had decided to drive hard against the white line may think differently next time and drive with more care and foresight.
To our left there is a siding which appears to lead away from the highway and over the rail line, this seems the obvious path to take. As we move over the rail line we notice a man sitting on the tail gate of what I assume is his ute, oblivious of our approach due to the phone within his gaze. A bulldog comes from beneath a bush and stops, looking at us in a stunned and frozen state. I would assume by the reaction that this dog has never seen a horse for it lunges and grabs hold of Coda's far rear leg before we have time to react. Coda reacts kicking and circling, a fire breathing dragon in an attempt to keep the dog at bay. Her kick connects and the dog yelps heading for cover in the scrub.
'I am so sorry', the man yells out as he attempts to coax the dog from it's place of hiding. Coda is unsettled and tells me she is not at all impressed with the incursion. But it is not the fault of anyone, the dog doing what a dog will do when intimidated and a horse its fight or flight response.
Who would have expected a horse to appear from the highway, in this lonely location. I reassure the man that it is ok and just wished it had been a better experience for his dog. His beloved dog came to him a little bruised but ok, Coda with a small scratch and a memory which I am sure will make her wary in the future.
We continue slowly along a sandy path toward the river where I stop to make sure Coda is ok to continue. After a thorough examination of her leg, words of reassurance and complimenting Coda on her courage, Coda indicates that she is ok to move forward and continue our journey home.
The return trip through to Penguin has so far been uneventful, giving Coda time to relax and be one with her rider. For me time to think on the things that have come to pass and how we come to be what we are.
As sentient beings we are all different, it is our individual personalities and abilities which make us who we are. It is what we do in life that defines us and how others will judge you in the end. But without others we cease to have purpose, in essence cease to exist. For if there is no-one else, who would remember, who would care?
Without Tahnee, Coda, my children and my good friend Corey, I know I would not be here now and my heart feels heavy with the memories of recent events. Although this is still raw with me I am grateful for their patience, the love and the friendship which they have given to me unconditionally. With affection I rub Coda's neck, feeling her warmth reminds me of how lucky I am to be here with her, my friend.
We have decided to travel via the Old Bass Hwy along the old coast road. It is known to be busy during the tourist season but the COVID-19 pandemic has limited its use to state based local travellers. With this knowledge we feel reassured that we will ride a quieter road today.
Penguin has many unique attractions, the 'Perry Ling Gardens' is one of these. We stop to look at an interpretive sign erected to honour the work of Max Perry who in 1983 started a small garden on Crown land opposite his home on the main road in Penguin to give better access to the beach, hide rubbish and blackberries and partly to create a lawn for his grand son.
Later that year Gordon Ling who lived nearby started a similar garden which eventually joined the two gardens. The Central Coast Council now continue to maintain these gardens which are now known world-wide for their brilliant blaze of colour.
This old coast road does not offer much room to get off the road so we travel with caution keeping as close to the guide rail as Coda will permit.
It has taken us an hour to travel the coast road, the heat is driving a thirst which we will need to satisfy. We find water for Coda at the Ulverstone Recreation Grounds where the council has installed an automatic waterer, I would assume that a horse is not what they had in mind. But Coda is not bothered by such things, for her it is a need which will soon be satisfied.
A spectacular day such as this will bring everyone out and judging by the people we are passing it looks like everyone is. As we ride it is hard not to feel good watching those around us enjoying time with their families and friends. Almost feels that there is nothing bad in the world, yet it is with humility that I am thankful that we live the life we do as others are not so fortunate.
The trail through to Turners Beach holds no surprises as we are now familiar with its route and the likely travellers who we will pass. The road to Forth is more precarious with its impatient drivers focused on getting to their destination in the shortest time possible. I tell Coda that it's a pity that my kind are always on fast forward, do not take the time to see what is about them and experience those sensations in real time, in the moment. I guess I am lucky for it's in me to do just that when I am with Coda.
The day is fading quickly and I have a headache that will not relent, although we had intended to head to the centre of Devonport, we have decided to meet Tahnee and Milo at the Don Community Hall. We are only half an hour from this location and judging by the quickening of Coda's pace I know she is aware that her float is near. The final stretch down the Forth Road into Don offers no area off road to travel so again we stick close to the guard rail and slowly walk the last kilometre to the hall.
There they are, Tahnee & Milo waiting patiently, Coda wickers in delight and is rewarded with a rub and a carrot from Tahnee as I dismount and remove her gear.
It is without a doubt that Miacoda is the greatest horse I have ever had the privilege to travel with. Her amazing feats and adventures only increase my admiration for her strength and ability, but most of all its her ever enduring fondness and respect for me that I feel each time we are together that which humbles me to call her my friend.