A Miami couple spent Sunday afternoon biking to learn about a city they grew up in — but never knew much about.
“I’ve lived here all my life and I never knew about any of these houses,” said Adriana Cervera, 29, a Miami Beach resident who grew up in greater Miami and toured the coral rock houses in Coral Gables. “My boyfriend lives three blocks from the museum and we’d never even been to it — how sad!”
What Cervera experienced for the first time is what many have experienced during the Gables bike ride, a monthly educational and historical tour hosted by the Coral Gables Museum to explore one of Miami’s oldest cities.
“This is not a put-your-spandex-on bike ride,” said Christine Rupp, bike tour guide and director of the Coral Gables Museum. “South Florida is very transient. There are people from everywhere else but here, so this is a fun way of teaching our history.”
This day’s bike ride was called Coral Rocks Bike and Swim. It toured the Gables’ earliest coral rock homes, of which there are 27 including the Merrick House, and it ended with a dip in the ultimate coral rock quarry, the Venetian Pool. Nearly 40 people attended.
It’s one of several bike tours offered by the museum in partnership with Bike Walk Coral Gables, a non-profit organization that promotes bicycle and pedestrian safety and the healthier lifestyle that it entails.
The tours correspond with set themes created by the museum for each season: Spring Pedals, Summer Spokes, Autumn Trails and Winter Wanders.
The coral rocks tour, which was the first bike tour the museum hosted in March 2012, was the last of the Summer Spokes tours. Autumn Trails will begin Sept. 15 with a tour of the most modern buildings in downtown Coral Gables.
“It’s great because it’s a super casual ride and people get to know each other,” said Rupp, who has worked at the museum since 2007 and lived in a coral rock home for a year. “Every month there’s a different tour, and sometimes we put different spins on previous tours.”
Families with children, couples on dates, and individuals looking for alternative ways to spend a Sunday afternoon came out to explore. Rupp said it’s even attracted residents of Broward and Palm Beach County.
And Cervera was not the only one who learned something new.
As bikers rode along the Granada Golf Course, down South Greenway, east on Valencia Avenue, and headed toward the Venetian Pool, bikers were repeatedly surprised at the information Rupp shared.
“I’ve done a few tours, and I always learn stuff that I never would have known,” said Dean Richardson, a farmer from South Miami who attends for the relaxation the ride gives him. “I didn’t realize how clever (George) Merrick was in laying out the city and learning how the houses were constructed. He took advantage of the natural trade winds and breezes, and now everybody just uses A.C.”
George Merrick built the first coral rock home in the Gables in 1906. He and his family were grapefruit farmers who originally named their home Coral Gables because of the oolitic limestone they used to build the house, according to Rupp.
“The Merrick family bought 1,600 acres for a little bit over a $1,000,” Rupp said, and the crowd gasped. “They used coral as building material because they had to rely on the natural resources of the area, since the train was not built yet.”
Now the Merrick house is open to the public as a museum on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Rupp said it’s important to know the history of the city so it’s preserved and well kept.
“What makes Coral Gables so special is that the community was totally planned, and it’s maintained its character.”