Sweet Ride

I t’s common these days to claim fall as one’s favorite season, with its leaf-peeping and apple-picking, its sweater weather and pumpkin spice. But for summer fans like me, these fleeting final weeks before fall are precious. And there’s no better way to milk summer for all it’s worth than a bike trip along the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, with ice cream the destination.

Knowing my own limits and uninterested in pushing beyond them (it’s summer, after all), I charted a 20ish-mile round-trip ride with the ideal halfway point: Wentworth’s Homemade Ice Cream in Hamden, in the shadow of Sleeping Giant State Park. Sure, you can take Whitney Avenue all the way there by car, but the ice cream tastes sweeter as a reward for the ride there and fuel for the ride home.

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Wentworth’s 30-plus flavors, including variable specials, pose some difficult decisions, and the only way around them is to return frequently, ideally accompanied by people interested in sharing. Vanilla Chocolate Chip, my old standby, delivered the desired embrace of simple, sweet, creamy comfort. Chocolate Salted Caramel Oreo had more going on, each individual flavor shining through, the salt and crunch nicely balancing the sweetness. The crumbled cookies in the ice cream tasted like real Oreos right out of the package, and my friend, who ordered a Peanut Butter Brickle sundae, made the same observation: The mix-ins and toppings tasted fresh and matched the quality of the base.

Be forewarned: The terminology Wentworth’s uses to denote sizes is nothing short of an insult to the English language, albeit a generous one. An order of “one scoop” ($5.29) will yield at least three heaping ones; it took a concerted effort of two hungry adults to finish one “kids” serving ($4.29). For one true scoop, a “teeny” ($3.49) would be the way to go. For however much ice cream you can handle, it’s worth every lick.

Though situated on a fast stretch of Whitney, Wentworth’s has a spacious side yard with a gazebo, picnic tables and swinging benches and plenty of tree-produced shade—perfect for slowing down and cooling off before getting back in the saddle.

For new and seasoned bikers alike, the Farmington Canal Trail makes for an exceedingly pleasant ride. I set out with my companion on a recent Saturday afternoon and joined the trail near its origin at the William Lanson statue, on the corner of Lock and Canal Streets. The initial stretch of the trail soon parallels Dixwell Avenue, and it takes some time for greenery to overtake the densely developed backdrop. Once it does, the flat, paved path under tree canopy offers near-perfect biking conditions. In certain segments, parents pushed strollers and older couples sat on benches along the route, but it was never crowded enough to feel pressure about one’s pace.

The bike to Wentworth’s is about 9 miles in one direction. To maximize time on the protected trail, we turned off at a paved driveway that my phone’s GPS incorrectly identified as “Richard Drive,” a private driveway that’s the next turn after crossing Todd Street. From there, we followed the hill down a brief stretch and then patiently crossed Whitney. It took my friend and me an hour to get there at a very leisurely pace. We extended our ride another three and a half miles each way to Lock 12, a trail-side historic canal lock in Cheshire with a small museum and park area—a perfect spot to picnic—before turning around.

The Farmington Canal Trail extends 80-plus miles to Northampton, Massachusetts, and I aspire to ride it in its entirety at some point. Perhaps I’ll get around to it in fall. For now, while the sun is still hot and high, 25 miles and a heap of ice cream are more than enough.

Wentworth’s Homemade Ice Cream
3697 Whitney Ave, Hamden (map)
Mon-Fri 2-9pm, Sat noon-9pm
(203) 281-7429
www.wentworthhomemadeicecream.com

Written by Steven Rome.

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