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The St. Johns River The Intracoastal and Beyond
Offroading in the GDC, continued

The GDC is where my dad took me to teach me how to drive a stick shift. When I was 15 (over 30 years ago) the GDC was already old. There was mile after mile of streets that were being overgrown by the vegetation on all sides, but no houses or traffic. Dad was able to sit back comfortably while I drove around for hours, stopping at intersections and learning how to use the clutch. My brothers and sister all learned to drive out there, too.

Years went by and I left home, served in the military, got married and divorced, and returned to Melbourne with my young son. The GDC was unchanged, except for the roads becoming a little more overgrown and run-down. By this time dirt-bikers and off-roaders had discovered the fun of riding in the wilds of the GDC.

I had a big green International Scout that friends and I would take offroading, and we had a lot of fun exploring the GDC. The streets twist and turn every witch way and it's easy to get lost out there, so we always made sure we had a full tank of gas when we started out.

The Scout going through a mud hole.
The Scout splashing through a mudhole.

The GDC was so remote we got to see a lot of wildlife. There was a huge old oak tree with a large branch that crossed a hidden trail where a panther or bobcat used to take his catch to eat it. We never saw the cat itself, just droppings, claw marks and bits of leftovers on his favorite branch.

There were alligators in the canals, and sometimes some bones left over from a wild pig one had caught and ate.

I saw a lot of panthers in Melbourne when I was young, but the only BLACK panther I ever saw in the wild was out at the GDC. We had been parked for a while and were about to start up and leave because it was beginning to get dark. Suddenly a huge black panther stepped out of the vegetation about 25 ft. away from us. We sat quietly and watched it for a moment, but it noticed us and silently melted back into the trees. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

We could sit out there and watch hawks hunting, or hike through some of the open savannahs keeping an eye out for snakes and scorpions. There were sometimes deer or wild pigs to be seen.

A canal
The canal at the southern end of the GDC.

We never ran into other people out there, but could see signs where there had been visitors in the night. Drug runners.

At the southern boundary of the GDC is a long, straight canal. An equally long, straight road ran on the GDC side of it. Most any time you went out there you could see fresh signs of fires built at either end of the roadway and tire marks in the middle of the road.

My brother was broke down out there one night with a girl and they saw a guy drive up in a pickup truck. She wanted to flag him down for help, but my brother convinced her to stay quiet and they weren't seen. The pickup driver lit fires in barrels at either end of the road. Almost immediately a small plane dropped out of the sky and screeched to a halt in the roadway. Bundles where quickly transferred from the plane to the truck, the plane took off, the pickup driver kicked over the barrels to put out the fires and took off himself. The whole operation took less than 10 minutes.

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