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  • Writer's pictureJim Clarahan

So close and yet so far, Oh Canada Eh!

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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