James Karagiannis embarked on a quest this year to deliver ice cream treats on every street in Buffalo.
On the third last day of October, he rested.
Karagiannis spent five months biking at least 700 miles on 1,708 city streets with his custom-built 400-pound ice cream trike. His completed his mission Tuesday on Fargo Avenue without fanfare.
“I’ve had cars stop in the middle of the street to root me on, so I almost feel like Forrest Gump," he said during an early break in the Fruit Belt. “Almost immediately people responded, but also, it was the heartfelt thank-you's. People told me no one comes to their neighborhood. They thanked me for looking out for them. They were really touched, and here I am just trying to ride up and down every street.”
His goal was to have all children on every street enjoy his ice cream, but as the days grew shorter, and the temperatures and winds turned brisk, the cargo bike was heavy, especially up the hills in parts of city. He avoided steep inclines, like the statue of David hill by Delaware Park, Kaisertown, Lovejoy and parts of Allentown, but now he was about to literally and figuratively climb every hill.
“Last week in the Outer Harbor, one street was so dark and full of potholes, if anybody drove by and saw me on it, they’d wonder what I’m doing,” said Karagiannis, 39. “I found out it wasn’t even on a street when I tried to color it red in the map.”
Other streets had “disappeared,” he discovered.
“One of the parking lots downtown across from the arena is really three streets. They paved over them. Do I have to ride through this parking lot? There are two more parking lots like that in the Medical Campus," he said. "Industrial streets are also weird. I’ve been saving those for at night.”
On Tuesday near noon, sporting his Buffalo Sabres Thomas Vanek jersey, Karagiannis had 30 streets left to ride.
“I have one street in Allentown that I missed; I'm going back to do it,” Karagiannis said. “Rarely a dog does not bark at me. I saw some deer the other day near Emslie Street. I had no idea how they got there.”
His great-aunt Mavis Appleby is 92 and may be one of Karagiannis’s biggest fans.
“When he was younger he used to sell candy bars out of his bedroom. He always was someone who could make money,” she said. “He’s very generous. Even though the price of the ice cream bars he sells went up, he wouldn’t up his price. He still charged a dollar.
The original story of the Ice Creamcycle Dude went viral in 2016, and people could not get enough of this bike peddler who distributed frozen treats with one string attached – the children had to write thank-you postcards. The Huffington Post called. ABC News called. Newspapers in England contacted him for interviews.
This winter, Karagiannis will head back to school for the first time since he started his ice cream business 12 years ago.
“I’ve always wanted to teach social studies in middle school, but now I’ll be a high school teacher because that is where the jobs are," said Karagiannis, who started his studies in business administration at Northeastern University. Karagiannis is a 1999 graduate of Bennett High School.
Toward late afternoon Tuesday, the weather began to change and Karagiannis was wrapping up his last mile. He was having trouble finding customers, but his pride was shining through.
“Of course I’m happy, but I’m really relieved. I haven’t really thought about how I’m going to celebrate, or if I’m going to," he said. "It was an adventure. It took on a life of its own."
And the last word on this quest? "I guess I underestimated how difficult biking down every street in the city would be.”
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