Listen, “Cycling is red hot!” I heard that on NPR, and who am I to argue with NPR. Plus I noticed that the last time I walked through Walmart there were hardly any bicycles left.
The good news is that Gainesville is a great cycling city, especially if you stick to neighborhood streets. This is a nearly 13 mile ride I like to do that takes me through some of the the great neighborhoods of Gainesville proper. The best way to see a city is on the back of a bicycle. So why not take the GNV Meander? Here’s the Ride With GPS link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/54807124
I begin in Forest Ridge because everybody has to begin somewhere and that’s happens to be where I live. Home of the world famous Alfred A. Ring Nature Preserve.
At 1.1 mile I enter Oak View neighborhood (be careful crossing 13th Street, wait for a break in traffic.) It’s an appropriately named neighborhood because it’s got some of Gainesville’s best tree canopied streets. Plus I saw this nifty classic Ford pickup that, according to the hand-written sign on the back window, still has its original engine and runs great!
At 1.6 miles enter Grove Street neighborhood (be careful crossing 6th Street). It’s home to the world famous C&G Brewery, Mo’s Garage and the Monday Farmer’s Market. Plus its got kickass murals and street art. What’s not to like?
At 2.2 miles you are in Pleasant Street. One of my all-time favorite neighborhoods it’s got historic buildings, classic shotgun houses and an intimate feel. Plus the Big Red Church! You can feel the neighborhood renewing itself all around you.
At 2.5 miles you will arrive at Main Street (be careful crossing). If you want to refresh I recommend Charlie’s Snow Shack for saved ice or, just across the street Vine for something hotter. Also, before you cross Man Street check out the murals right around the corner from Charlie’s. They’re great.
Cross Main and you are in the Duck Pond. Sweetwater Branch meanders through here. You’ve got the Santa Fe Spring Arts House, the LaCosta House, the weird wooden winged sculpture and the world famous “Dump Trump” sign. Great neighborhood.
At 2.6 miles you have arrived at the Thomas Center. Giant oak trees, great fountain, wonderful Spanish style architecture and a sculpture that looks like dried fish hung out to cure. You will likely see folks doing yoga or picnicking on the lush green lawn. Need a break? Go inside and catch the latest art exhibit.
Continue your meander through the Duck Pond and, at 3.5 miles, you will enter the Bed & Breakfast District. You’ll know you’re there when you see the oddly disturbing mural on the wall of the convenience store just on the other side of University Avenue. Cross with the light. The old homes turned B&Bs are spectacular. Not to mention the quaint cracker style cottages that dot the neighborhood.
At 3.9 miles you enter Sweetwater Branch Park. To the right is the Matheson Museum complex. It’s a skinny park and before you know it you’ll exit where the library headquarters faces off against the federal courthouse. The courthouse is where Nixon tried to railroad the Gainesville Eight, but failed in the face of stubborn Gainesville jurors who had a better concept of justice than the whole Justice Department. (By the way, for about half a block you’ll be headed the wrong way on a one-way street, so maybe use the sidewalk for that stretch).
Downtown is Hipp! What more is there to say?
At 4.6 miles you are back in the B&B District. Why? Why the hell not? It’s a great neighborhood to meander through.
At 5 miles you are going to take a right onto the rail-trail that will take you through Springhill to Depot Park. Check out the Cotton Club and Perryman’s Grocery. But whatever you do don’t miss the collection of murals on the GRU walls at SE 5th Avenue and SE 8th Street. They are spectacular!
If I have to explain why you want to ride through Depot Park (at 5.5 miles) you might as well stay at home. It’s simply Da Bomb!
At 6.8 miles you will get onto a rail-trail that will take you past First Mag Brewery (where you can cycle-through to buy beer), after which you will skirt Porters and enter the Innovation District. Watch out for sunbathing students.
At 8 miles you will cross University Avenue at the light and enter UF campus. Gator Country! And you will be in the heart of the old historic campus district, which will one day be car-free if the UF strategic planners are to be believed.
At 8.6 miles you are going to make a right out of Newell Drive (which nobody drives on since it’s a pedestrian mall) onto University Avenue. You will immediately get into the turn lane and turn off University Avenue onto NW 16th Street (ALL THE WHILE BEING VERY CAREFUL TO WAIT FOR A BREAK IN TRAFFIC SO YOU CAN CROSS SAFELY). Now you are in Midtown, home of more student apartments than is humanly possible to count. But it’s got some great restaurants and cafes as well.
At 9.1 miles you are going to cross University Avenue at the light to once again enter campus. This so you can see The Swamp, the O’Dome and other monuments to athletic braggadocio. Get your photo taken with the big gator or the three UF football legends.
BTW: When I did this ride Stadium Road was closed for construction so I had to retrace my route back to Emerson Hall and then proceed west on University Avenue (there’s a bike lane) to get to NW 23rd St. If Stadium Rd is finished when you go proceed west and then take a right just past Presley Stadium. From there you can cross University Avenue at 23rd Street (AFTER WAITING FOR A BREAK IN TRAFFIC TO CROSS SAFELY OF COURSE).
At 10.3 miles you will enter Palm Terrace, one of Gainesville’s great hide-in-plain-sight neighborhoods. It’s very classy with a few Tara-like mansions and what not. But the best thing about riding through Palm Terrace is the steep hill that will take you down to 8th Avenue. It’s a thrill ride. Short but sweet.
OK, 10.7 miles and you have arrived at NW 8th Avenue. If you want to linger and maybe add some mileage, hang a left and follow the Solar Walk exhibit to Loblolly Nature Preserve. It’s well worth the extra effort. Otherwise cross 8th and take the boardwalk that will connect you to Mason Manner.
At 11.5 miles you are going to turn right on 16th Avenue (wide sidewalk and bike lane, take your choice) and then turn left unto NW 23rd Street (ALWAYS BEING CAREFUL TO WATCH FOR TRAFFIC AND CROSS SAFELY) for a brief swing through Brywood and back to Forest Ridge.
End of ride. Congrats. You’ve done the GNV Meander.