Ride Blog

  • Jim Clarahan

The Empire State provided the bookends of my journey thru the northeast U.S., starting with Buffalo and Niagara Falls, and ending with the Big Apple before heading south thru New Jersey and the Mid-Atlantic. In between, riding the Finger Lakes region in upstate NY through the rain, the twisting elevation changes of the Appalachian mountain range of Vermont & New Hampshire, the scenery along Maine's and Massachusetts' Atlantic coastline, and the great Hudson River from Fishkill to New York City, provided a new picture postcard with nearly every mile - spellbinding at times.

Mother Nature's beautiful and diverse scenery varied greatly from the previous weeks, the general goodness and kindness that greeted me along the way has become a consistent theme. Complete strangers have quickly become new friends, and getting reacquainted with old friends has been even more extra special than expected. The sincere interest in lending a hand, learning more about Dray and his fight, continues to motivate my spirits and gives the needed boost to keep on riding. Thank you to all of you, for interrupting your schedules to cheer me along my way!

Buffalo to Saratoga Springs started at the Original Pancake House with Tom Emmerling, Dopkins & Co (Buffalo). Several hours later I caught up with old friends from Insero (Rochester) and FMFE (Syracuse) at Dinosaur BBQ in Syracuse - one of the best pubs & grills ever - if i don't mind saying so. A special shout out of thanks to Nancy, Bob, Andy, Bruce, Mark, Lauren, Jean and Jim for turning out the red carpet welcome. Then riding thru the rain to Albany where I caught up with Ron Guizor, BST CPA's, and onto my final stop at Saratoga Springs, 330 miles later. A casual dinner with old friend, Joe Torani, BST's founding partner, made for the perfect end of a great day.


Next up after Saratoga was the ride to Burlington VT to catch up with Jason Hamilton at GFC CPAs. Green Mountain to the east and Lake Champlain to the west, provided a panoramic feast for the eyes that is begging me to come back for seconds.


Normally my GoPro batteries are charged 100% before the start of every ride. Excited with great anticipation for the ride thru the White Mountain range of New Hampshire with the Kancamagus ahead - the coolest twisty 25 miles ever - only to discover my battery is dead. My biggest OOPs of the trip thus far. One could spend months here and never grow tired of the views. Another reason to return real soon.

New England Clam Chowder and fresh Lobster Rolls - yummy for the tummy

Who needs Tom Brady when you have fresh lobster and clam chowder on call, 24/7, plus a whole host of other deliciousness the sea has to offer? And what does Tom Brady have anything to do about this blog - NOTHING - other than the 2020 NFL season starts today and the Patriots are without their "franchise QB" for the first time in 20 years.

Lunch in South Portland with old buddy Graham Smith. Formerly part of the RSM Alliance, and recently merged his firm with Wipfli, a Wisconsin based firm. Without Mr. Brady to lead his Pats, nothing wrong with becoming a Packer Backer! Go Pack Go!

Onto Boston I rolled. First stop, Revere Harley-Davidson for a 5,000 mile oil change and maintenance check. Excellent decision as the air filter was in serious need of cleaning and the gear belt needed tightening. And while the bike was receiving its much needed TLC, Mary Theo and Nina Heindel treated me to a fabulous lunch at Pier 6 overlooking the Boston harbor.

With the bike all cleaned up and ready to roll, I couldn't leave the site of the Boston Tea Party without a few memorable pics with Chris MacKenzie, Erinn Johnson, and, of course, Nina! Special mention to professional photographer Jessica Grant (not pictured) for an outstanding shoot.

'Connecticut ing' back to New York

New Haven and Stamford were my last two New England stops before connecting back into New York. Susan Martinelli and Nicole Landucci had a special surprise waiting for me as I pulled up to the New Haven office. New Haven PD motorcycle patrol officer, Jason Jackson, was on hand for an extra special photo op. Before I headed out, Nicole honored me with a NHPD challenge coin, compliments of her husband Chris (NHPD), who arranged for Officer Jackson's special appearance. A BIG EXTRA THANK YOU to Nicole, Chris, officer Jackson and the NHPD!

Still craving seafood I decided to venture along the CT coastline in search of place to satisfy my palate. It didn't take too long to find Anthony's Ocean View in New Haven. Look out Boston and Portland, you've got competition. And who knew that Connecticut has palm trees?

Greg Budnik and Pete Pfeiffer graciously interrupted their Saturday morning to meet me at the new Stamford office. This was my first visit to Stamford since the move from the Canal street office. It was wonderful spending extra time with Pete, as he is in his own battle with a rare and insidious terminal cancer. Pete has been a special source of strength and spiritual guidepost to me, as my family and I have endured the anguish we bare with little Dray. Thank you, Pete!

Hugging the Hudson River's eastern shoreline from Sleepy Hollow to Peekskill, then over to the western side at the Ft. Montgomery bridge was inspiring every mile under tire. West Point up close and personal, followed by a birds-eye view from the cliffs above the valley was the best way to pay respects to those who unselfishly serve and have served. And an obligatory stop at the home of Orange County Choppers (OCC), Newburgh, is checklist must for every Harley rider - check!

Meet Me at Max's on Main, Beacon NY

The next stop after OCC was intended to be Fishkill, where I was to meet up with Stu and Denise Taub for dinner. That rendezvous eventually happened as planned, however, I had a few hours of spare time to kill. As I crossed the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, I was unsuspectingly drawn to ride into Beacon. Another random stop filled with special memories and new friends. Beacon is a quaint riverside town with tons of shops that draw many people on the weekends from throughout the valley.

Thirsty after a full day's ride, I searched for the nearest tavern to wet my whistle, and was lucky to find Max's on Main. Warmly greeted at the door by Richie Kaplan, and to my astonishing and happy surprise, Max's is a Packers bar!!!! Get outta here. Karma is real! Richie went out of his way to introduce me to his brother, Harvey, show me the special area reserved for Packer fans, etc. Richie and Harvey are co-owners and named the bar after their dad, Max, a Russian immigrant who moved to the area in 1921.

Real Heroes

With school back in session and COVID still preventing a return to what was a normal life, the day-to-day of a young family four with a child battling an aggressive brain cancer is daunting for me to contemplate. I am continually amazed at, and proud of, the calm inner-strength that my daughter, son-in-law, and grandsons display on a daily basis. Big brother Duke, 2nd grade, is required to home school, has had to give up all team sports and hanging out with his buddies and pals. D (Donivine) and Payton, are somehow meeting all of their work obligations while juggling parenting duties and making sure Dray's unique medical needs are constantly attended to. And on top of that, D, continues to make time to study for his law degree. D, Payton, Duke and Dray, are a blessing to all of us, as they are role models for how to live life to the fullest, even when the the heaviest challenges hit us head on. Love you kids!

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  • Jim Clarahan

Visiting RSM's Toronto office was originally a top priority for my ride - yet another COVID casualty. The border control authorities did not consider the Ride 4 Dray as an essential service and turned me away at the Niagara Falls border crossing on day 14. My first glimpse of Canada was through the mist from the falls and the other side of the rainbow.

Lake Ontario's southern shoreline provided a fun and scenic panorama for a leisure unscripted 100 mile ride for day 14. The only planned destination was eventually finishing at my hotel, the Reikart House in Amherst NY.

30 miles east of Niagara Falls I rumbled into the little lakeside town of Olcott NY (reminiscent of my hometown of Port Washington WI). The 2 minute to spin thru town led directly to the Old Olcott Beach Fire Station. Today it doubles as a quaint and rustic hotel with 5 or 6 guestrooms upstairs and a delicious pub & grill below where the fire engines use to rest. The new fire station is a few miles south.

UNSUNG HEROES - Brunner's Tavern in Buffalo. After leaving Olcott, a 70 mile ride thru NY wine country left me thirsting for an ice cold beer, and there on a corner, just a few miles from my final stop, Brunner's Tavern appeared - on an unsuspecting corner tavern across the street from St Benedict's Catholic Church.

Everyday an uplifting story or two emerges from the random encounters that occur along the way. Brunner’s was the first of three on day 14. Only 5 people inside including the two bartenders. They heard my bike pull in, so one went to check it out. When he came back in, he asked what I was doing so far away from Illinois - door open for telling Dray’s story. Turned out these guys are all Vets from the Gulf War – army & navy, and they were very moved by Dray. They wouldn’t let me pay my bill and as I walked out, one of the bartenders handed me an envelope with a $200 cash donation. When I asked for their names, they declined and just requested that I remember Brunner’s Tavern in Buffalo. The random act of kindness that I experienced there will forever keep Brunner’s Tavern etched in my memory. To my friends at Brunner's Tavern - Thank You and God Bless You!

The next two kindness incidents happened in nearly rapid fire sequence. Two ladies were getting in the car next to the parking spot I had just pulled into at the hotel. The driver remarked how much she liked my Harley and wanted to know what I was doing. Another story about Dray. Turns out this lady is a nurse at a nearby hospital and hands me a $60 cash donation as they pull away. Again, no name, just well wishes for a safe journey and prayers for Drayson and family. The third, and final incident of day 14, was with my server, Nicky, at the Jazzboline Restaurant. Over the course of dinner, a similar opportunity to tell Dray's story unfolded. Nicky not only generously donated to the Ride 4 Dray, she also broadcast the Ride 4 Dray website to all of her FB contacts. Thank you, Nicky!

The Reikart House, is a Marriott property in Amherst NY. Its unique design pays tribute to legendary local Amherst character Frank Reikart, his wife, Dolly and their pet monkey, Jacko. The Reikarts were colorful characters and vaudeville entertainers who, in the early 1900’s, welcomed visitors to Amherst as “the first family of hospitality.” The staff here are friendly and attend to your every need and request. Definitely worth a repeat visit whenever I'm in the Buffalo area again.

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  • Jim Clarahan

Updated: Aug 30, 2020

Week 2 - Days 11, 12, 13 ... Ohio flew by in a flurry. Powered by Cincinnati's famous Skyline Chili, Tony Packos 3-way, and Cleveland Grub. Ohio is my kind of foodie state, love it or hate it!

Cincinnati's skyline from the Kentucky side of the Ohio river was welcoming site at 6 am as I prepared for my ride through the Buckeye state.

Cincinnati's very own Ken Jenkins was first to greet me in the Buckeye state. The views from the RSM office are spectacular. And to set the stage for my Ohio food experience, an obligatory stop for lunch at Skyline's flagship location was the exclamation point on my stop in the Queen City.

A stop by Cincinnati Children's and Dayton Children's capped my all too brief of a visits to southwestern Ohio. So much looking forward to returning to both of these leading children's hospitals for proper visits in the future post-COVID world.

In Dayton I was greeted by none other than Todd Pleiman and Jay Moeller, and then onto Columbus, where Bill Petrus gave me a tour of the office currently under renovation.

The serpentine route through Ohio led me to Maumee, where I met with longtime friends and colleagues from Gilmore Jasion & Mahler - Kevin Gilmore, Linda Hillstrom, Jaimee Weaver & Greg Taylor.

The home of the Rock n' Roll HOF, Mabel's BBQ - with a menu of scrumptious delights by Cleveland's Iron Chef, Michael Symons, was my final foodie stop in Ohio. Each conference room is themed after a HOF group or artist makes for a fun and entertaining office environment. Dave Andrews, Ohio Market Leader, Mary Mullen, Sue Sabo and Lori Kalic, graciously made me feel very welcomed, fed me and wished me well, as i rode off east toward PA and NY.

Hang on Sloopy! (click this hyperlink to watch the original video on Youtube) And even though the McCoys were formed in Indiana, the founding band members, the Zehringer brothers - Rick and Randy, were originally from Fort Recovery, OH. Their 1965 #1 hit, Hang on Sloopy, is recognized as the official rock song of the state of Ohio, and the unofficial fight song of "the" Ohio State University Buckeyes. Go Buckeyes!

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Papa’s Ride 4 Dray is a kids’ cancer awareness campaign, designed to be a catalyst for making positive change in the diagnosis of brain tumors, funding of research for a cure and improving treatment delivery.

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