6.18.2007,12:05 PM
Summers, adventures and ice cream

Summer nights and ice cream are like a happy married couple: they were made for each other. But lazy summer days and ice cream are like teenage love.

A summer ritual for decades has been sitting outside on a warm night eating a dish of ice cream, chatting and relaxing, swatting at buzzing flies and petting sleeping dogs. Mexicans are known for their noon-time fiestas, I prefer summer night ice cream socials.

Fond memories of sitting outside on porches with dishes full of melting homemade ice cream, at small tables near sidewalks in towns from Maine to Oregon, Italy to Greece, chatting with others or alone watching life unfold around me......... lazy summer nights offer a respite from a bustling day.

Arising from these fond memories, ice cream socials were introduced in my current area a few weeks ago. Each week they attract more bikes and riders rolling in to partake. So far it appears to be catching on. Of course, it only serves to feed my itchy feet.

Every summer I am plagued by itchy feet, restlessness, the urge for traveling somewhere, anywhere. It's a drive, not just a desire. Spontaneity with a dose of flexible planning, stir with possible destinations are my recipe for summer journeys. While some travel with only a destination on the map, I prefer to leave the possibilities wide open as much as time and finances will allow.

Because my long distance journeys this year were canceled, shorter and closer trips will have to quench my hunger. Appeasing the wanderlust inside me, as well as feeding the demon its ice cream, I allocate a weekend day whenever possible this summer to hunt for the 'perfect' ice cream. (I'll have to find red ice cream in October.)

Of course, it's also an 'excuse' to provide others with a destination on a ride. Or share an adventure.

Every journey, every trip, every walk or ride can be an adventure. You don't have to 'look' for it. In fact, if you are receptive it will find you. Many people don't recognize their passion in life, or they hunt for a passion all their lives not knowing what it is. You can't search for passion; it finds you. And you can't resist it.

Even ice cream.

Traveling is one of my passions. No matter how short, long, near or far, often an adventure is deposited in my rides and travels. I don't search for them; they just 'happen'.

Last Sunday's ride for ice cream was no different.

From different points in Tarrant and Denton counties, five riders rode in the rain and converged at an old fashioned ice cream parlor in Denton. Blending history with the present, the old and stately county courthouse stands watch over shops placed around a quaint and neat square like children at its feet. Several buildings retain their antiquated appearances, some vacant, some in use.

One building originally constructed as a bank (Denton County National Bank, 1913) sported marble Greek columns and facade, a large square clock handing on the corner, and with a "For Lease" sign in a first-floor window.


Another brick building across the square was capped with a stone decoupaged gable as if it had been added on in second thought. A flank of store fronts, newer but before our decade, housed shops such as the Denton Independent Hamburger Company (which prepares customized hamburgers) and Beth Marie's Old Fashioned Ice Cream and Soda Fountain, our common destination for this ride.


The interior of Beth Marie's reminds me of the diners and soda fountains of my youth: the black and white square tiled floor, tall wooden cabinets behind the counter, long counter with bar stool seats, pendulous lights and ceiling fans. The only missing element was outdoor seating. Inside the cooler is a wide variety of ice cream flavors, including a few rare delicacies such as pumpkin and black cherry.

As an ice cream connoisseur I rated the ice cream sundae excellent; the best I've had in several years. I chose a scoop each of the aforementioned flavors and watched as warmed fudge was dribbled over the bottom and top scoops. Never caring much for whipped cream, I requested that it not be added. In response to the odd looks of my fellow riders - "Something's missing....." - I replied, "I like my sundaes naked."


On the way back to the bikes, I walked around the courthouse for a few more photographs. Most old courthouses from that era look too similar to be notable; public buildings in the Romanesque styles were popular in the West during the mid to late 1880's.


To really appreciate their individuality, a closer perspective reveals their differences by the details of the stonework, columns, steps, doors, windows, and the 'trimming on the cake' as I call it: the top of the building. The peak, sometimes ornate, is usually lofty. Often times, as it did that day, the very top of these structures serve as landmarks or homing devices for their location; they pop up above all the other surrounding buildings to be seen miles away. (This was how I found the location of the square; riding towards the dome of the courthouse with it's gray roof.)*


Craning my head up to examine the cornices, I searched for my favorite Gothic architectural feature: gargoyles. They were nowhere to be found. Sadly. They often infuse a sense of the comical as well as mythological. I delight in them like other's do with puppies.

So I appeased my photographic search by focusing on the contrasting angles and novel ways to softly frame the sharply angled structure.




Riding home on the highway enjoying the brief exposure to sunshine, an image in my peripheral vision turned my head to the left.......was that what I thought it was?

I pulled off at the next exit, changed direction and re-entered the highway. Estimating the location, I exited again, turned right and rode behind a large store into the rear tractor-trailer parking lot. Jumping off the bike and grabbing the camera, I ran across the road and median strip to the white pipe fencing and searched.........Yes, I was right.

There, about 500 yards in a large pasture was a small herd of bison. Next to the highway, and across on the other side, their 'cousins': a herd of cows. A juxtaposition of bovines.


I leaned against the fencing, camera balanced on the top fence pipe and waited......and waited. Looking through the zoom lens I saw several of them take turns looking at the weird large bipedal yellow jacket by their fence. Curiosity got the both of us; thirty minutes or so and they had slowly made their way up to where I stood. Patiently waiting.


They were smaller specimens than the typical plains bison seen dotting the Montana landscape, but nevertheless, I was delighting in their company. I've long harbored a fascination with bison, spending many hours sitting at the feet of a stuffed bison, bigger than a house to a young child, in the Buffalo Museum of Natural History. He was my buddy and companion as I read stories of the Western frontier.

One thing that intrigues me is their shape; parts of different bovine-like mammals attached together with no thought to symmetry or complement. As if evolution were blind as they evolved. Their cow-like rear ends and shaggy humped front body with massive shoulder and neck, beady little eyes like the whales' and lost in a giant head. Their gangly and powerful bodies always amazes me. And here they were, close to me, eying me closely wondering what I was. I talked to them while I snapped shot after shot, and they didn't appear to be disturbed, only as curious as I was.


A truck stopped on the side of the road and two people disembarked with yapping small dogs (giant rodents) in their arms. As these intruders got closer, I could see the bison's alert mode in their eyes and bodies. They quickly moved away, short of a gallop but faster than a walk. I tried to hide my dismay, but wasn't successful, as I left the fence and headed back for the bike and the ride home.

Another day, my friends. I'll be back.


* The Denton county courthouse was built between 1895 and 1897 using limestone block, gray sandstone from Mineral Wells, and red granite from Burnet County for the columns. In 1986-87 it was completely restored, costing over $3 million, and was 'retired' to house a museum. A new, modern and lack-luster building now serves as an active courthouse.

posted by Macrobe
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