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  • Writer's pictureJim Clarahan

BENELUX to VIENNA - the Ride 4 Dray Europe's first month is a wrap, month two underway!

Wow! Thirty-eight days from the start, here I am in Vienna: the "City of Music" (Mozart/Beethoven), the "City of Dreams" (Freud), the "City of Coffeehouses", the "City of Opera/Theatre/Culture" and the home of Weiner schnitzel. Does it get any better than this? I aim to find out over the next eighty-seven days! Ride stats to date:

  • 38 days, 29 April to 5 June

  • 7,400+ KM, 4,600+ miles

  • 15 RSM office stops, 13 live visits

  • 6 intros to kids' cancer organizations, 4 active collaborators, 2 pending

  • 1 kids cancer hospital tour

Life on the road after Paris has been one fantastic experience after another. A collage of beautiful people, varied cultures and history mixed together highlighting the best of humanity. A random encounter with a professional motorcycle photographer offering to help promote my cause (thank you - Julien Ths - Sur La Bequille), getting schooled in a fun series of backgammon at the Cigar Bar inside the Storchen Hotel Zurich, by my new friend who also inspired me to start using Instagram. Thank you, Suzi!

Luxembourg - approximately the size of Rhode Island, a stroll through old neighborhoods, a photo op outside the RSM office, nourishment in the city center and then a much-needed night of rest was the perfect day.

Brussels - NYC's cross-town rush hour pales in comparison. 60+ minutes to travel ~3 miles, not for me. More people per square meter in Brussels than I don't know where. Thank goodness for Ann Henderickx (RSM Belgium) for recommending that I change hotel to the airport district. Regardless, my visit to Brussels could not have been better orchestrated. Dinner at Rugbyman N'2 (known for lobster), followed by an after-dinner stroll through the olde city center was the best with Marc Van Damme as our guide. Thank you, Gert van den Berg, Marc and Ann for a fabulous evening!

The next morning, Ann and I were off bright and early for meetings at Queen Fabiola Children's University Hospital(Huderf). Gert joined us for special visits with Dr. Devalck, head of pediatric oncology, and Patrice BRAHY, life-long finance director. Later I met with Marie-Christine Schoevaerts, founder and president of ‘Ensemble pas à pas’ (Step by Step). The progress made in Belgium regarding diagnosis and treatment of childhood cancer is amazing. I was also very pleased to learn that the kid's cancer organizations in Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Italy are already collaborating. Cannot bypass thanking Laetitia Sacre (not pictured) for chauffer services back to my hotel!

Amsterdam - two parts.

First up, a fabulous one-on-one lunch with Laura Bles-Temme, managing partner of RSM Netherlands followed by RSM NL team photo from the office overlooking the harbor. The RSM NL office is located in the perfect upscale business office district with great views of the waterways snaking through Amsterdam. Thank you, RSM NL Amsterdam team!

Part two, H-D Amsterdam (HOG AMSTEL Chapter). Dropped off my bike for its first oil change and service since it left Peoria in April. Customer service reps Kinga & Sandra gave a warm welcome and when they heard about the Ride 4 Dray Europe, they quickly jumped on the bandwagon. Exchanged the R4D Challenge Coin for a few special gifts including my first "ride bell". It has kept all the road demons away, except for today's rain. Thank you, Kinga and Sandra!

Koblenz - at the confluence of Mosel & Rhein Rivers is one of my all-time favorite places to visit in Germany. A quaint, small city with stunning views, castles and wineries in every direction. My great friend, Nicky from Dusseldorf area, met me for a fun afternoon. The very next day, Nicky, her husband Chris and Valentin (son) were moving to Charlotte, NC. Chris is one of our newest RSM US partners (welcome Chris), and Nicky returns stateside to continue working with RSM's GCRS (Global Compliance Reporting Services) team. The Hotel Haus Morjan along the Rhein was central to everything Koblenz.

Stuttgart - just past the halfway point from Koblenz to Zurich, Stuttgart was the perfect pitstop. There I had the great honor of meeting with Dr. Cristoph Eppinger, partner at Ebner Stolz. Ebner Stolz (ES) made a generous donation of €1,000 to the Stuttgart Cancer Center in honor of Ride 4 Dray. Thank you! ES recently announced its plans for joining RSM International near the end of 2023. Welcome to RSM!

Zurich - Thank you to managing partner, Thomas Laube, of the RSM Switzerland Zurich team for hosting me. One day in Zurich is not enough so a return visit in the future is a must.

Friedrichshafen (FN) - The Peoria Club red carpet treatment started with a fabulous welcome dinner at the Gastof Rebstock with Joachim Seliger, president; Lukas Schenk, secretary, taking on some authentic Swabian cuisine. The following morning, I was fortunate to meet with Bürgermeister (mayor) Fabian Muller at City Hall, and a photo op with the mayor and Joachim at the FN/Peoria bier stein. Apparently, I can now claim to be the first Peorian to visit the bier stein. Did you know the Zepellin was created here in FN? The tour of said named museum was a must for me. A scenic motorcycle tour of "hops" country, along twisty, windy, narrow roads into the hillsides next to the Alps - great preparation for my ride to Vienna. Back to Swabian cuisine, lunch at Felders restaurant along the Bodensee (aka Lake Constantine) with Joachim, Heinz Ewald, Peoria Club Exchange leader, and Silke Pfeiffer, City of FN Sister City coordinator. Then dinner that evening at Lammsgarten Beer Garden with Heinz, wife Susan, and Franziska Thelemann, Peoria Club treasurer. A big shout out - THANK YOU - to Karin Seckinger, Karin is one of the mainstays at FN Peoria Club and she organized my visit. And another big shout out to Jim Ardis, former mayor of Peoria, IL, who introduced me to FN. Thank you, Jim A!

Arlbergpass - the short 7+km ride from St Cristoph am Arlberg to St Anton am Arlberg, was a rider's thrill of a lifetime. Twisties up, down and through the Alps, with a brief mountain top stop for beautiful pics and a new patch for the vest. Thank you, Heinz, for recommending the route. The longest one-day ride of the trip, nine hours on the bike to cover 460+ miles from FN to Vienna, was well worth every mile.

Vienna - much more than opera, music, theatre, coffee and Weiner schnitzel. Beautiful architecture, mile after mile of shopping, all within the "Ring" (the tree-lined boulevards that encircle the city center), underscore Vienna's well-deserved reputation as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Lunch with Stefan Walter, longtime friend and managing partner of RSM Austria. Partners, Michael Heck and Katrin Windischhofer, joined us for the obligatory flag picture to document my stop.

Closing this blog with a tribute to one of Dray and Duke's favorite Superheroes: Spider Man. Post Malone and Swae Lee - performing Sunflower! You kids are superheroes to Papa!

Next up from the Ride 4 Dray Europe: Croatia, Italy, Albania and Greece!

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