Looping in Dallas: a drive on Loop 12

I live in Dallas now, but how much do I really know about this city and what there is to do? How many historical events occurred here other than JFK’s assassination and where are they? When people ask me what to do in Dallas or have I ever been to (insert tourist location here) I think I should be able to answer them confidently, as in I have been there. Better yet, I could recommend something uniquely Dallas but not touristy. I mean let’s be real, this isn’t Boston, NYC or DC, rich with history and curiosities…or maybe it is. I intend to find out and share with you my results.

CD’s listened to:
Black Sabbath- Sabotage
The 13th Floor Elevators- The Psychedelic Sounds of…

2.5 roads circle Dallas: Loop 12 (Walton Walker) + 635 (LBJ) and the Geo Bush Turnpike (190). LBJ as I’ve discovered, doesn’t actually circle the city, more like bisects it. In addition it connects to I-20. If you think back to why loop 12 was built, it outlined (or maybe was) the city limits or connected farm roads so they could get downtown easily. By driving this route, I hoped to get a sense or feel for the Dallas of old; how big was the city years ago, what was important back then? Turns out a lot has changed but there are still glimpses of the old if you look.

I started by White Rock Lake at the apex of the loop. There was some sort of event, perhaps a fun run or this park is normally just crowded all the time. The first thing that I noticed about this excursion is that Loop 12 isn’t a freeway. There are stoplights most of the way, except a small part on the west side so the speed limit varies greatly from 30-60 mph. I was under the impression it was a major artery and perhaps it may have been at one time. L12 has many parks along the road as well, at least 3-5. For a big city like Dallas, there are a lot more trees and undeveloped land than I anticipated, you just have to hunt them out. Only a few miles in and I’ve learned something. Ah ha, now I know where Keller’s Hamburgers is located, too, going to have to try that joint out.

L12, like many freeways around here, has different names depending on where you’re at on the road. I don’t know what the predilection is for honoring highways for famous people, but Dallas has that Jones big time which makes listening to traffic reports or navigating a challenge. On the east side it’s called Buckner blvd. After about 10 minutes, Buckner crossed I-20 and became Northwest Rd. This stretch soon became a caricature of a poor neighborhood. Many homeless wandering the streets, people passed out/sleeping and yes I even saw someone throwing up. The sounds of my mom’s voice reverberated through my head, ‘why aren’t they in church, its Sunday!’ there are many paths to salvation it seems…

There were plenty of small ma + pop gas station/bbq/catfish/fried chicken/burger joints peppered along the route. These look a bit shady based off the names and overall cleanliness, but I’ll bet most are probably tasty. Any place that advertises a double meat double cheeseburger for 2 bucks has to be worth checking out. It was eye opening to notice the lack of chains fast food joints. It seems everyone just opened decided to do it themselves, which is refreshing. Some ideas are better than others and I saw several misspelled signs, the most glaring being one that advertised for ‘ciggarets,’ in a permanent, illuminated sign no less. No need to pick up what you’re selling to make sure it’s spelled correctly. Nope, just spell it out the way its pronounced ought to be good enough.

I slowly found my way to a 7-11 as my gas tank hit E. One thing I was for sure on the lookout for were gas prices. Would it be cheaper to fill up in S Dallas vs. Highland Park? There was a 10 cent price difference and it was actually a bit cheaper to fill up in HP, which I wasn’t expecting. As I was filling up, a woman drove up into the parking lot at about 20mph and screeched to a stop at a pump. She got out, curlers still in her hair, a skirt that road up past the bottom of her butt checks, and she was yelling. I froze for a moment and glanced at the gas tank; still a few more gallons to go and I had some crazy woman raging who soon would be facing me while she gassed up. It turns out I had nothing to worry as this woman strode out of the station I saw a Blue Tooth in her ear. She wasn’t crazy; she was just on the phone. I gave her a nod, she smiled and that was filling up in south Dallas.

A few minutes after filling up the neighborhood ended and fields emerged. I saw off in the distance the downtown profile. It was a bit southwest Dallas heading into the original OC: Oak Cliff. There were lots of churches along the route, some in different languages. The Korean Baptist church has to be an experience. Do they shout and holler like I’ve seen in other Baptist churches? I also drove by the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star which is such a vague yet specific name that conjures up many images. Was this a school, church or a fraternal organization? Just Google them, their site is worth scanning, but it is an African denomination close to Pentecostal but a bit Catholic.

Shortly after passing the brotherhood, I found myself in Irving and on a ‘new road’: Northwest Hwy. Now that seems far away and it sort of is, but it did help explain why the Cowboys, who played in Irving for all these years, go by the Dallas Cowboys. I’ll bet you at one time that area was in the Dallas City limits and just grew into a suburb. The stadium is still standing with demolition equipment all around it. You know they aren’t going to just tear that down, I mean, its Jerry Jones, they will find a way to sell as much of that stadium as possible. ‘Want a piece of concrete that Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, and Tony Dorsett spat on, only $19.99!’ Still need to check out the new stadium in Arlington.

Driving on an overpass that crossed I-35 was odd as I’ve driven under it for years and never knew which road it was since there wasn’t an exit. Soon after crossing I-35, the freeway ended and I was back to stopping at lights. The west section of NW Hwy was where the strip clubs used to be as I recall. Not sure where they all moved, probably a good thing. This stretch of road is something to see during the day. Sure I’ve been here at night so you miss lots of details, the essence of an area, hence, driving around town during the day. I mean there is more to see around than just strip clubs.

A few more miles and suddenly I’m in a different city in more than just name: Highland Park. Gaudy comes to mind, opulent is another to describe this area. Even the strip shopping malls look different with shop names you only see in fashion magazines and completely unusual architecture; lots of walls, steeples castle like structures. I am not sure why every place in Dallas, especially HP offers valet service but they do. Indeed, all the shops were filling up with elegantly dressed people. I assume they are going directly from church as I pass a Methodist or was that Baptist church? The houses and lawns are immaculate to an annoying degree; there are professionals manicuring grass and hedges. Interesting to think that moments ago I probably drove through the neighborhoods where those groundskeepers live. That’s indicative of any city I suppose, wealthy on one end, poor on the other.

I learned a lot about Dallas and how it’s laid out from this drive. You hear names or places on the radio but rarely do you go there. I now know what roads go all the way to L12 in each direction so in case of traffic I’ll be able to navigate my way without using major highways. I saw some cool places I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I learned that Dallas is much more than just downtown, more than just the iconic nighttime shot of all the skyscrapers. Dallas has some rough patches, some exclusive nooks and everything in between. Trust me this exploration isn’t to get people to come out here, rather it is to explore the nation’s 9th largest city (of course in TX it’s still only 3rd largest). I still dislike greatly (upgrade from hate) most of Dallas so perhaps exploring the city will change that or at least help me understand why some places suck.

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