A rain dance: that was the idea, only with ice cream.
After what seemed like a week of 90+ degree weather we had both collapsed in the middle of the afternoon when Sharl blurted out, ‘let’s skip dinner tonight, and just have banana splits.’
It was, literally, a cool idea.
We had just finished cleaning three rooms, preparing for a full house that night, and we felt too exhausted to think of, much less, eat dinner.
An ice cream dinner would be easy to prepare, have the extra added effect of cooling us down as well, and perhaps break the heatwave.
This is an old house: if all the doors are open, all the windows too, it is remarkably airy.
Before air conditioning house builders had to know how to construct a comfortable home using nothing but natural airflow.
But with the Airbnb occupying most of our second floor the door to each suite is often shut, the windows down because of room air conditioners and so, paradoxically, the rest of the house retains the heat.
Wait, I said to Sharl, perhaps a bit drowsy and overheated, ‘let’s take your idea and double down. Let’s not just have ice cream for dinner, let’s go on a multi-state ice cream adventure!’
It was 93 degrees.
It was 4 p.m.
Could we really manage to visit multiple ice cream ‘stands’ in multiple states before the sun set, Saturn rose, and all the little dairy bars between Plymouth and Rhode Island shut down?
Yes, Sharl said, or so I imagined.
The plan was hatched en route.
It seemed clear that our best shot for multiple scoops was to head southeast, perhaps to Rhode Island. Newport was only an hour or so away and, there were likely dozens of ice cream stands (creameries, parlours..) on the way.
Besides, the Prius has an air conditioner and, by the time we reached the Rhode Island the temperature would likely have dropped below 90.
It was a no-brainer and a brain freezer at the same time!
Yes, as one overly earnest Facebook commenter suggested before we had even left the driveway, Plymouth has an ample supply of ice cream stands: why not just walk about town?
Yes, she was serious.
Well, I offered the response, because a road trip is its own reward.
Because we wanted to do more than get a cone and go home.
Because part of the idea was to get away, if even for just the afternoon, to avoid thinking about how hot it was.
Off we went, first announcing our plans on Facebook, then heading west on Summer Street, toward the State Forest, thinking right away of making our first stop at Erickson’s in Carver on 58.
Ever ordered a ‘triple-thick shake’ and when it arrived, thought to yourself, “this isn’t triple-thick, hardly double thick?!’
Not at Erickson’s!
Their triple thick is glacial: it moves about an inch a year, up your straw, however hard you struggle.
They’ve been there for decades, have dozens of flavors, and are 5 minutes away from Route 495: a road that can take you in any direction.
As stepped out of the car we realized we had no master plan, no specific goals, no objective way to evaluate one scoop from another.
We invented a loose plan on the spot (and later abandoned it).
What’s your most popular flavor, I asked the scooper.
At Erickson’s it was a tie, she said, Maine Black Bear and Moose Tracks.
It was also apparent from the start that we needed to go slow, at least at first, so we ordered the smallest cones they had: so-called ‘baby size.’
At Erickson’s though you could fit a baby in the baby cone.
One of my favorite smart-phone features is the ability to ask Siri or Alexa or whomever, for the nearest Italian restaurant, or where the nearest place to rent a kayak is, so as soon as we hit Route 195 (still working feverishly on our first two cones) we asked Siri, “Ice Cream near me?”
The choices were endless.
There were several in Wareham itself, one in ‘downtown’ Onset, one in Marion and, about 15 minutes away, two Acushnet Creameries – one in Acushnet, one in New Bedford.
We didn’t have the best internet connection so we couldn’t upload directions, so I got off the highway in Acushnet but ended up at the New Bedford stand anyway.
Sometimes it pays to get lost.
On Pier 3 in New Bedford there is a large open-air restaurant, a popular clam shack and the Acushnet Creamery’s New Bedford location, all set on a working pier surrounded by colorful trawlers and lobster boats.
Sharl was still feeling the ‘baby’ cone at Erickson’s so I ordered a large cone set in a cup of what I was told was one of their most popular selections: Espresso Brownie Fudge.
It was a devilish mixture: caffeinated, super sweet, and chewy too.
Hard work with a tongue or spoon, but worth the effort.
We dawdled a little here, the setting was so wonderful, but we were still working on that cone when we headed back on to the highway and continued our journey south.
P.S. The hometown location of Acushnet Creamery, we were told, has fifty flavors including – in the fall – an amazing Peach flavored scoop
Maybe it’s good that we didn’t see the comments on the Facebook page before we got home. If we had we may have never made it to Newport, but would have been found in a rest stop, groaning from the scoops we’d been lured to eat on the way.
Grays was one of the names we heard repeatedly, just over the state line in Tiverton, Rhode Island, open 365 days a year, and offering 30 flavors.
Melissa had a lot of great suggestions, including Acushnet Creamery, Salvador’s Ice Cream (presently closed), and the Oxford Creamery in Mattapoisett.
My old friend Louise suggested Dr. Mike’s Ice Cream Factory, which she said offers a unique flavor called Chocolate Lace. That would have been tempting too, only that ‘factory’ is in Bethel, Connecticut, 166 miles (and about 3 hours) further southwest.
We had just finished the Espresso Brownie Fudge when we hit the Rhode Island border, so we vowed to wait until Newport for our next dairy dip.
It was a Monday but – even with Covid restrictions in place – Newport was bustling.
We had a choice of several ice cream stands in the waterfront area and we chose Sprinkles, as it seemed to be right on the water.
We were feeling a bit queasy, so we decided to stabilize with a hot dog or two and then, at the text request of our friend Denise, ordered cones of Maple Walnut.
That’s a fairly staid, traditional flavor, but I have to say the Sprinkles’ version was delicious: the walnut chunks seemed to be coated in maple sugar, and the maple-flavored ice cream was especially creamy.
We spent a quarter hour or so just sitting on the dock, relaxing, readying ourselves for the drive home.
What was remarkable to consider – besides the variety and quality of ice cream available within an hour’s drive – was the central location of Plymouth. In an hour you can be in Boston, Cambridge, Provincetown or Newport.
Plymouth has its own flavors to taste, sights to see, history to contemplate of course, but it also serves as a perfect headquarters for exploring a wide variety of New England originals.
The only questioned that remained was, how many stops would we make on the return trip.
It was tempting to consider seeking out the hometown store of Acushnet Creamery. We could easily find a few stands in nearby Fall River. We had seen a tempting website – and reviews – of Nana’s in Onset. And then of course, there are a wealth of wonderful ice cream shops in Plymouth as well, including one that is part of our view of the harbor – Ziggy’s.
In the end we set our sights on Nana’s, largely because neither of us had been to ‘downtown’ Onset in years.
It was dark when we got there, just a few minutes before 9 p.m., so we parked and hurried over, worried that it was about to close.
Actually, we discovered, Nana’s is open until 10 most nights, until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights.
It was difficult to make our selection at Nana’s.
As it would likely be the last scoops we’d have on the road that night, we wanted to end with a flourish – but admittedly my stomach was beginning to make itself known and Sharl, she won’t mind my saying, had closed down for the night.
I pondered a shake. I considered that American classic, the Banana Split. I looked over the flavors and then I threw a dart at the board: “give me one of your smallest sundaes,” I said, “with two scoops, no more.”
I wasn’t quite sure what I had ordered.
It was dark – outside that is – there were two scoops of ice cream: one strawberry, the other vanilla. The scoops were covered with what, at first, was a mysterious fruity concoction, sprinkled with coconut flakes and decorated with an ample supply of whipped cream
It was a classic, old school sundae and I ate it all, only learning its name when I stepped back inside to throw away the container.
The Bahama Mama!
I’m not sure how I got home. Sharl says she didn’t drive, so I guess I was at the wheel.
Is it possible to be drunk on ice cream?
My brain had been frapped.
The plan, in my head, was to end at Ziggy’s with one of their special waffle cones and walk home but I wisely decided to go straight to bed instead.
We had done the deed though.
We had danced the dance.
The sun descended, the temperature plummeted, the humidity dissipated – the heat wave was broken – and we were responsible, I swear.
We sacrificed our stomachs and, while I am sure it will go unappreciated, we have the satisfaction of knowing that it was all for a good cause.
Or, as Sharl said, “I may never eat ice cream again.”