Mini Cooper enthusiasts make local ice cream stop By Mike LaBella [email protected] HAVERHILL â€” On day three of their four-day Great Ice Cream Run II, a small caravan of Mini Coopers pulled onto Washington Street. Around 11 a.m. yesterday, and in plain view of a police officer, each of the 13 nimble little cars made quick U-turns, then neatly slipped into reserved parking spaces in front of England's MicroCreamery ice cream shop. There would be no tickets for U-turns today. In fact, Officer Paul Malone had been waiting for the arrival of the small British cars and brought all other traffic to a halt as they made their approach. The night before, the City Council approved setting aside parking spaces on Washington Street for the Minis. "To be able to make U-turns in front of a policeman is cool," said Susan Palmer of Raleigh, N.C., who arrived in Haverhill in her 2005 off-white and black Mini Cooper. Palmer is among the more than dozen Mini owners participating in a four-day quest to sample some of the best home-made ice-cream between Staunton, Va., where the trip began earlier in the week, and Bar Harbor, Maine, where it will conclude today. They will then travel to the Mount Washington area of New Hampshire for this weekend's annual meet and greet, called Minis On Top. The Mini Cooper owners are part of a group that conducts online discussions and arranges trips like this. MicroCreamery owner Jane England, who opened early in preparation for the group's arrival, said the tour's itinerary included stops at only ice-cream shops where they "make their own." She said her Guinness ice-cream, which some of the Mini owners came to Haverhill for, is the most popular flavor to sample. "But I would not say it is the most popular to order," she joked. Ken Russell, owner of the Shine Parlor, across the street from England's, watched from the sidewalk as each Mini passed by before making their U-turns to park. "I get a kick out of the license plates," said Russell, 46, of Kingston, N.H. George and Jean Gates of Haverhill heard about the event the night before and were waiting for the cars to arrive. "I'm almost tempted to get one myself," George Gates said while inspecting a line of parked Minis. Some of the Mini owners were familiar with England's and with Haverhill, since they were here in 2007 during their first Great Ice Cream Run. One of them, Paul Graziano, 48, of Howell, N.J., joined up with this year's caravan in New York with his 2003 electric blue MINI Cooper S. "I'm ending my trip here today," he said. Eric Schatzlein, 46, of Gardner, Mass, drove his 2008 hot chocolate-colored MINI Cooper Clubman down to Virginia to begin the trip. "I heard about it on the Internet," he said. Ron and Nancy Lavey of Wakefield, R.I., who took part in the 2007 run, drove their red 2002 Mini Cooper Clubman S into town yesterday. They wore the green England's T-shirts they bought during their last visit. Willy, a nine-year-old bearded Collie, waited inside their Mini. "He gets some ice-cream, but very little," Nancy Lavey said as she sat at a small table inside England's enjoying a bowl of chocolate ice cream. "I'm liking this a lot," she said, adding that it was the best chocolate she'd yet tasted on the trip. In 2007 a group of ice-cream-loving Mini owners embarked on their first Great Ice Cream Run. It was a seven-day event that began in Florida and was coordinated by Robyn Resch, 37, of Plainsboro, N.J. "Because the ice-cream didn't get good until Virginia, we shortened this year's trip," Resch said, moments after stepping out of her 2007 off-white Mini Sidewalk Convertible. "As you go north, the ice-cream gets better. It has a creamier, richer flavor." You can't get much creamier than England's sweet cream, said Ian Cull, 46, of Gloucester. Before joining the caravan in Virginia, he had to fly to Florida to pick up his "summer" car, a thunder blue 2006 Mini Cooper. "The sweet cream is the creamiest ice-cream we've met in any state," he said. "And having reserved parking, well, this is the best and friendliest greeting we've had on our trip yet."