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 albariño 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 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.
"I WAITED FOR HOURS AT THE WILDLIFE SANCTUARY AND I JUST WANTED TO BE THE CROCODILE HUNTER EXCEPT, Y'KNOW, WITHOUT THE ACTUAL WRESTLING OR BEING REMOTELY CLOSE TO AN ALLIGATOR PART and THERE WASN'T ONE SINGLE ALLIGATOR."
"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.)