How tough and manly does a biker have to be? And can he be so tough and manly that he can’t get a little bit excited about pulling off the road for an ice cream on a hot day?
My wife and I were nearing the end of a 156-mile circuit on a beautiful April day that was sunny and nearly 70 degrees, and we needed ice cream. It had been hours since we’d had a fantastic lunch at Big G’s in Winslow and now, back in Bangor, with just a few miles to go before we were home, we were jonesing for dessert. Part of my plan on that trip was to come back to town via Route 15 just so that we could stop at Gifford’s Ice Cream on Broadway before heading home.
What is there to say about any ice-cream place? What can you say? It’s ice cream. I suppose we could debate which flavor is better and whether which brand uses which preservatives and so on, but I don’t think most motorcyclists cruising around on a hot summer day much care about anything except that the ice cream is cold and tasty.
Now, it would have been a whole lot cheaper to stop at the Hannaford up the street and grab a few containers of ice cream. We might have been able to find form Gifford’s brand there. But there’s something about that that doesn’t fit the motorcycle-trip framework. What, stop off to jam ice cream in the saddlebags and speed home before it melts and you’re leaving a suspicious-looking trail of melted pink strawberry ice cream behind your bike? Sit in your driveway to eat your dessert while admiring how nice your bike looks? Worse yet, attract the neighbor’s kids and have to share it? No, we needed to stop and celebrate the end of a perfect riding day with some of the best ice cream you’ll find in Maine.
Gifford’s is one of those things, like Moxie, that is inextricably linked to Maine. But unlike Moxie, it’s easy to see why: It’s delicious! (I know, I know… cue the angry comments from Moxie lovers.)
The business traces its roots to Pawcatuck, Conn. in the 1800s, but it was the family’s later relocation of its dairy-farm business to Skowhegan in 1971 that created this Maine icon. Five generations since its earliest ice-cream-making beginnings, this business sells 1.7 million gallons of ice cream each year across the country; back here in Maine, the five Gifford’s ice-cream stands in Auburn, Bangor, Farmington, Skowhegan, and Waterville serve more than 1 million cones every summer.
If nothing else, I’m sure that I couldn’t make ice-cream dishes that looked as marvelous as what the Gifford’s folks do. Elaine ordered a gigantic waffle cone stuffed with Rocky Road, and it looked as fantastic as it tasted. I was in a sundae sort of mood, but that quickly elevated to a banana split mood, and they put one together with everything. I’m a sucker for a good banana split, and if it was a perfect ending to a great ride that I was looking for, I found it.
Gifford’s opens early in the season—in March, often when there’s snow on the ground and when there’s snow yet to come. And when it opens, people from all over Greater Bangor descend on the stand to show their appreciation, and those crowds continue throughout the summer. The day we stopped was no exception, with throngs of eager people mobbing the multiple windows. We sat out back at one of the many picnic tables and ate. It had been a long, satisfying day, and I was ready to sack out. The ice cream gave me the energy to cruise another few miles back to my driveway.
Even if you’re a big, tough biker on a loud Harley, wearing more steel chains than Mr. T wears gold… well, once you stop in at a Gifford’s, I’m pretty sure you’ll find the kid in you—even if it’s just for the duration of a cone or a sundae. Or, if you’re really into finding your inner child like I am, a gigantic banana split.
To learn more, visit www.giffordsicecream.com.