Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Wandering Blues Travelogues: The Grand Floridian Gator Quest

I'm in Baltimore, writing about Gainesville, FL. Tomorrow I'll be in Worcester, writing about Baltimore. The Wandering Blues Magical Mystery Tour will then head to Johnson City TN, Boston, Richmond, DC, Philadelphia, and Springfield, MA. If you have any cheap-or-free things to do in any of these cities, let me know! I'll be without car, but with camera. 


I don't know what I expected from Gainesville. I tell everyone I'm going to Gainesville, and they immediately say "Oh! Home of the Gators!" 
And then they change the subject.
So I expect to see a hell of a lot of gators in Gainesville. 
And that's about it.

Normally I like my road trips long and I like 'em leisurely. Let me pull off the road, take some pictures, meet some people and get on the road again. Let me see the third-oldest American lighthouse or the world's largest frying pan. Unfortunately, the trip to Gainesville was more like Days of Thunder than On the Road. I did find this gem somewhere in the South:

 and I'm now determined to own it.

I loved you, hotel room.
 Our Gainesville hotel was comped and I loved it from the moment I stepped on the elevator with two  retirees clutching glasses of white. I've been in the car for eleven hours and I'm trying not to salivate.

"Honey, you better drop your luggage and head right back down to the bar because they're closing down, but they'll let you take it back to your room if you want!" They raise their glasses. I love these people. I consider raising my luggage back at them in a toast because I've got a bottle of albariƱo nestled in my pajamas and a bottle opener in my purse, but I decide to just heartily thank them instead.


 I was spending less than 24 hours in Gainesville, so I spent the morning working and then set out to explore the town in the afternoon. 

My first impression was not promising.

Everyone said there wasn't much in Gainesville. Hours from the beaches. Mickey Mouse's too far south. No water. Not even that warm. A college town.

No one mentioned this:

Everything's more languid in Florida. The people talk slower. They walk slower. Leaves fall later. Birds sun. Eyelids flutter. The trees hang slow and soft. 

 Then I strike gold, right there in the Florida marsh.

Holy Crap. Alligators. Alligators. Snapping, ferocious alligators. Gainesville really is the home of the gators. They're here. They're enough of a danger to put up signs and forbid feeding them. You know, because my first instinct when I see a cuddly huge-jawed reptile is to walk up to the alligator and feed it.  I settle under a big tree at a safe distance, camera poised, waiting for an alligator sighting. I'm patient. I'm a huntress. I'm still and silent. And I wait.

And I wait.

And I wait some more.

I snap some pictures of suspicious branches in the water.

I yawn.

I wait some more.

Nothing. Eventually I move to another alligator sign. And I wait. And I wait some more. Eventually, it's time to rush back in time for check-out, and I haven't seen one single gator except for the mascot plastered on every. single. thing. in. Gainesville.

Even the trash cans are Gator-themed.

 Derrick comes back from his UFL residency interview, all calm and loaded with free gator-themed paraphernalia. They even gave him a tote bag. The gator grins at me. I want to punch him.


"Oh," Derrick says. "Yeah, we drove by on the tour bus. They said they had to move all the alligators. There aren't any there anymore. So I guess you waited a while, huh?"

I hate you, Gainesville.

(But at least you made me laugh.)


  1. Excellent post! I love the photos! So beautiful. Sorry you didn't get to see a gator though:( Maybe next time!

  2. LOL! They moved the gators? Where? Where does one put gators?

    I hope your travels take you to Corpus Chisti, Texas some time. I'd love to see my town through your camera.

  3. I love the pictures! And I'm sorry you didn't find an alligator. I guess they got tired of finding them in people's swimming pools and moved them all to the Everglades.

    In my family we prefer the Seminoles to the Gators. Except my Dad, who likes the Gators and hates the Seminoles.

    Gainesville sucks. But then again...most of Florida is so humid that you're drinking water when you breathe. So I have to say that Florida itself sucks. Even the parts with beaches.

  4. I love that chapel-y swamp church.

    Ha. Hahaha. Heehee. No gators.

    Okay, I want to buy some of your prints. We'll talk about that when you're home. M'kay?

  5. I know I say this every time, but seriously. You are SUCH an incredible photographer.

  6. Priceless ending girl! Love all of it, especially that church(?). I'm actually going to Florida on the 16th maybe I will stop in Gainsville on my way from Fernandina Beach to Tampa. Where is that church?

  7. Jumble Mash: I'll be armed and ready in my safari hat.
    Mary: That was my exact same reaction! I was like "Seriously? Where did they go? Did they just shuffle them along on a gator trail of tears?"
    Chanel: Yeah, I'm a northern girl. I don't know if I could handle being the heat. And if you can't stand the heat, get out of the Florida kitchen.
    Lacie: It's not me. It's the camera.
    EMaggie: It's at the University of Florida's Wildlife Sanctuary across from the bat house, but I don't actually think it's a church--I think it's a converted church that's now part of the university? The bat houses looked really cool too, but it was...y'know...daylight. So no bat activity.

  8. It is TOO you! The camera is just a tool. You are the one who frames the subject -- hell, YOU decide what photo to take in the first place.

    It's all you girl! And you have a lot of talent.

  9. Sure, it's the camera. Right. And it's the keyboard that makes the writing great, too.

    Silly girl.

    I look forward to the Wandering Blues Travelogue like a junkie looks forward to his next score.

    That's an awful comparison!

    Maybe like a gigolo looks forward to his next score?

    No. Like a Panda in the National Zoo looks forward to another imported mate?

    Why are these all drug or sex related?

    Well, for real, I anxiously await your travelogues.


Comment on this post. Or tell me your favorite movie. Or your favorite pez flavor. Maybe your analytical interpretation of "The Graduate." Anything goes, really.