Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tour De Garland

I heard through the grapevine not too long ago that the Garland Shopping Center was being torn down so that an IHOP and some other chain stores could be put in. Now, there was nothing of note in the GSC anymore (at least not that know of) but I spent a lot of time there when I was in high school, and I figured the news was a good enough excuse for a nice ride over there to check it out - and see what else had changed in my old stomping grounds. I never get over to Garland anymore, and I certainly hadn't ridden a bike there since I got my license.

Garland High School, Garland, TX

My first stop was at Garland High School, about 11 miles into the ride. I am a Garland "Ex", but haven't been back for a long time. I took the picture in front of the only part of the school I recognized, really; they have built up GHS a lot. I am pleased that they did it right and maintined the same spanish style of the rest of the  building, but I am amazed at the size of the campus now - it is huge, and extends right to the front parking lot. When I attended, there was nothing between teacher's parking and the front parking lot other than trees and grass. The campus feels crowded now; I always liked the big grass field out in front . I stopped for a picture and to eat an orange, then moved on.
All That's Left of the Garland Shopping Center

My next stop was the former site of the Garland Shopping Center. All that is left now is the sign above, which I believe is being kept up (and hopefully restored) for the new shopping center. When I was in high school, I used to eat at a little cafe that sat underneath the sign, and I used to shop in the strip mall that the arrow pointed to. I have always loved the GSC sign, and consider it one of the few real "landmarks" in Garland. I spent a lot of hours during my high school years shopping at the two thrift stores in the center. I remember there being lines of old ten speeds out in front of the Salvation Army store then, and now I wonder how many great bicycles I walked past in my rush to buy a worn out sportscoat or pair of black shoes.

The approximate spot I used to eat

As I mounted up to ride away after taking photos of the sign, I realized that while the cafe was long gone, the floor was still there. I have long ago forgotten the name of the cafe, but the taste of the open faced roast beef sandwich they used to serve is still talked about fondly by my taste buds. I stopped to snap a quick photo of "my booth" - I ate at the cafe at least once a week from when I got my license until the place closed down after my junior year, and I aways ate in the same booth. The tiles are still there, but I'd bet that I'm one of the few who remembers the food at the cafe.

Downtown Garland
After checking out what was left of the shopping center, I shot over to downtown Garland, where I was shocked by all of the development; there are a ton of "mixed use" apartments with shops down below and living up top. I recognized very little of downtown Garland at all. The square is still there, but it's kind of marginalized by all of the new development. It seemed to me that the renovated performing arts center is the focal point of downtown now. Then again I was just passing through. After downtown I went to visit my first place of employment to have a limeade and a coney - the Sonic I worked at when I was 15 hasn't changed a whole lot. Ah, the stories I could tell about my 6 months of employment here...

Me at Sonic - no employee discount, now or back then.

when I finished my lunch, I rode over to my first Texas elementary school, Shorehaven. My family moved to Garland from Iowa when I was in third grade, and this was my first introduction to Texas (and Texas women - I was "going" with a girl by the end of the year). I don't remember all that much about going to school here, except that I had my first male teacher ever, and that our class planted a tree at the end of the year. As I had hoped, the tree was stil there, so I grabbed some skateboarding hooligans and had them take my photo. Luckily they didn't steal my camera. 
The last time I saw this tree, it had just been transplanted from a cofee can.

After that surprisingly nostalgic tree visit, I rode over to check out the house I grew up in. To be honest, I was a little leery of this part of the trip, because the last time I visited the family homestead a decade ago, I was saddened to see it in a terrible state of disrepair, with a hole in the garage and the fence knocked down. This time the house was in better condition, and had been refurbished since my last visit. I planted a tree at this house with my Dad, and after explaining who I was and why I was here to a neighbor who was out in his yard, he agreed to snap a photo of me with my other tree.

There is a time capsule that I buried in 1985 under my feet somewhere.

I grew up looking out of the window over my left shoulder, and decided to become a big time web blogger while sitting in that room in approximately 1989. It's been a long road here, but I have ascended. I finished up being the creepy stranger lurking in these people's lawn, hopped on the bike, and went for a super nostalgic spin through the neighborhood. When I was younger, I was free to travel the whole area, as far as my wheels could take me.  I started in the residential streets on my BMX, but as I got older and graduated to ten speeds, I made my way all over the northern 'burbs. However, the neighborhood was where I first discovered freedom, and there was one spot I used to test my BMX mettle; the cement hill. The cement hill was a nice cement ramp that was tucked away at the far end of the development, and it was great for doing tricks, and was a forbidden zone by lots of parents. In fact, when my brother got old enough to ride he and his friends went down to the cement hill and got caught - and I was "babysitting" them, so got in big trouble. I had no awareness that the hill was forbidden, or even that he had gone there. I wasn't a good babysitter.

The fabled cement hill. 

The hill is now overgrown, and it is blocked by a steel fence like this on both sides. It's also surrounded by a ton of houses now, so it doesn't feel as secret as it did back then. There is a kind of hidden park in the trees across the ramp, or there was when I was a kid. I wanted to see if it was still there, but I didn't have a lock, and didn't feel like dragging my bike over the barricade so I just took a photo of the overgrown hill for my brother to see. If I were 12 again I would certainly never hesitate to climb that fence, but not today. I mounted up one more time and made a run for Plano, and home. I rode past my parents second house (where I never lived) and my first apartment complex, but I didn't stop at either one. The ride home from the cement hill was a little over 18 miles, and I made really good time back to Plano, but then promptly misplaced all of the photos I took until July, when I am finishing this post. So those sharp eyed readers who noticed my jacket and asked themselves how I could wear one in this heat, there is your answer. The ride was fun, and I'm good on visiting Garland for the next decade or so, I think. Look for another post like this in 2021. 


  1. Thanks for the view of Garland - I haven't been back to Bay Shore street since 1997! I promised the girls I would show them where I lived one of these days...Dawn

  2. You are very welcome, Dawn. Thanks for reading.

  3. I also grew up in Garland and still here! Thankyou so much for the tour. Brought some tears up. Unbelievable how much Garland has changed. I stay pretty much on the Garland / Richardson area all the time. Just recently I went over near First and Walnut, and surprised as well over all the development going on! As well as some kind of bridge going up, I assume for a train? Anyhoo, thankyou so much for the tour, it really inspired me to do one myself. Thankyou....Lia