Monday, August 26, 2013


I grew up visiting Florida, and have always considered it my second home. As a small child, my family visited my grandmother and her husband, who lived in a small retirement community near Ocala. I spent seventh grade at a Dunellon middle school, insisting that everyone call me "Bari". Most of the six months following high school I was in Jacksonville, and I started a family of my own in Ft. Lauderdale. But during my senior year of high school, and over the course of the summer months that followed, I was in Gainesville:

I spent my spring break there, with my boyfriend who lived in Gainesville. That was the first time I had ever spent Easter away from my family; my first Easter without sitting in a pew wearing my Sunday best. It was also the first time I had ever spent an extended amount of overnight time with any boy, and this made me feel so  grown up.  (I'm rolling my eyes as I type this...) 

It was there I celebrated my 18th birthday with friends new and old, a bottle of Captain Morgan. 

I left home in Virginia and moved myself into my first apartment off of 34th St. I'll never forget how it felt to be lying on my bed, smiling into the dark, in my own space, surrounded by my own things, blasting The Doors as loud as I could just because I could. I remember thinking to myself, This is happy. (So what if it lasted only two weeks?) 

The night I got my first tattoo, I went to a house party and realized what it was like to really be on my own.

After I had Justice, I returned to Gainesville as a single mother and, swinging on a tire, through a cloud of hazy sun and fuzzy reverb from the Pavement record I had just been listening to ringing in my ears, I again thought to myself, This is happy.

* * * 

I hadn't been back to Gainesville since then--2005--and when I realized that my little family would be passing through on our way to visit my father, I felt a pull to revisit a place that held so much to me in my previous life. So, again, I set to work figuring out what we would actually do once we got there.

I discovered the Florida Museum of Natural History, that it was free, and Logan, Gibson, and I  decided that's what we were going to do for the day. We were really hungry when we first arrived in town, so we hit up one of the only places I know where to eat: Burrito Brothers.

I was surprised to find that the location had changed but relieved that the burritos still tasted (and smelled) the same. My guac was fresh and delicious, and Logan's chorizo burrito was spicy and filling. They hit the spot and we left for the museum.

I can't speak highly enough about our time at the Florida Museum of Natural History. It was full of interactive activities and loaded with information and fascinating, kid-friendly exhibits. The three of us easily passed over two hours, and could have stayed much longer were it not for the museum's closing. We did pay a small fee to explore the "Butterfly Rainforest", which, at the time, was highlighting Costa Rican butterflies. (Right now it's blue and orange butterflies, and if I lived closer I would totally go back. I'm double-bummed that we were a few days short on missing Surfing Florida: A Photographic History and Surf Science: Waves and Wildlife!) Logan and I did a similar butterfly activity at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, but truthfully, it didn't compare. I also appreciated so much the fact that the museum is free. Here in Hampton Roads, most everything is not free.

When I was searching for info on the Florida Museum of Natural History, I came across info on the University of Florida Bat House. After a little bit of poking around and reading reviews on TripAdvisor, I asked Logan if he would mind indulging me in staying the four extra hours until sunset, when the bats begin waking up for the evening. Blessedly, I married a fellow geek.

Since we had some time to kill before dusk, we scuttled about town in search of music stores. (If you're noticing a pattern, it's this: When we travel, I look into places or activities that will give us a proper feel of wherever we may be; monuments, museums, historic sites. Logan scouts out music and record stores). 

We had ice cream for dinner at a super cute shop called Sweet Dreams.  All of Sweet Dreams' ice cream is handmade in house, and they had some really fun flavors. I chose Vanilla Cherry, Honey Lavender, and Watermelon Sorbet. I'm still 
dreaming about the Vanilla Cherry. 

Logan drove us back to the bat houses after we doused ourselves with bug spray and grabbed our umbrella. Since we still had time before the sun went down, we took a walk around Lake Alice. We found two alligators and quite a few snapping turtles-- the lake itself was serene and beautiful. 

At this point I was geeking out pretty hard and just had to get to the fence in front of the bat houses. I waited  and waited and waited, and, just a few minutes after sunset, my patience (not a virtue I'm all too familiar with) was rewarded. At first just a few enterprising bats stretched their wings and came out, but, after a few moments, it was if a silent alarm went off and there they were. 

For over twenty minutes, the three of us
sat and watched as thousands upon thousands of Brazilian Free-Tailed and Southeastern Bats swooped down from their resting spots and feasted upon the buffet of mosquitoes and other insects that are plentiful in the area. It was one of my all-time favorite moments. Minus the smell. The smell was about as gross as you could get.

 I have (mostly) good memories of being young and having fun in Gainesville. While I am still (mostly) young, I can add my memories with my family to my Gainesville cache. I felt especially stoked that I was there with Logan. 

You see, in December 2001, I had planned on hitching a ride with a friend's band to Gainesville, where I would meet up with my boyfriend for a bit before coming back home with the band. I can't remember the reason now, but I was unable to go down to Gainesville that weekend, and my boyfriend came to Virginia instead. Had I gone on that trip, I would have met Logan... Unbeknownst to me, he was one of the guitar players in my friend's band. 

That story is one I think back on and just smile. It's one of the reasons that back up my claim that Logan and I were meant to be, because if we had met back then, I can say with confidence we just wouldn't have worked out. (Mostly because I was W-I-L-D). But really, I think back to all of my past experiences and see how they all led me to the life I have now; a life I lead where I feel secure, loved, and optimistic. So, in a way, Logan and I were making up for the trip we never took to Gainesville.

Maybe it's me being way too introspective, or just plain emotional, but our day in Gainesville was my favorite on our trip. It was a day where my face hurt from smiling, and my heart was light from the pleasure of spending the day with two people I love beyond reason.


  1. Mmmmmm! Handmade ice cream!! That sounds like a really fun little trip!


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