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  • Writer's pictureJim Clarahan

The Empire State - New England Loop

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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