James Brown returns home, sweet home

  • Wednesday, July 18, 2012

By Chris Sokoloski


Forty-two days after hopping on his bike in Huntington Beach, Calif., James Brown arrived home in Surfside Beach on Tuesday evening.

The Waccamaw High School tennis coach rode across the country to raise money for the Ashley G Foundation, which is named for Ashley Gaines, a Waccamaw High graduate who died of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2008.

"I don't think it's really sunk in, how far I've rode this bicycle," Brown said during a rest stop in Georgetown on Tuesday afternoon. "I've envisioned it many, many times throughout the years. It's hard for me to fathom that we started in California and we're across the United States."

Sonja Brown drove the 2,584 miles with her husband, getting the word out about his progress to locals as they passed through, and to supporters back home, and taking care of the details, like hotel rooms.

Last year Brown rode 1,245 miles from Waco, Texas, to Surfside Beach and raised nearly $17,000 for the foundation.

This year's trip took him through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

Although final numbers weren't available Tuesday, more than $12,000 has been raised this year so far.

Brown has wanted to ride across the country for several years, but it took months to convince Sonja to let him make the trip.

The journey was more than what they expected.

"It was more vivid," Brown said. "The colors, the mountains, the desert. It's overwhelming how beautiful this country is."

"The coolest part was learning the history of all these little towns," Sonja said.

Brown said he was buoyed by people he met during the ride, whom he calls his "24-hour" friends, and supporters back home who sent text messages and e-mails.

"It was so uplifting," Brown said. "That made it special for me."

Brown had "road angels" every day, who donated $1 for each mile he rode that day and sent him multiple messages of support.

After a brief thought of quitting about half way through the ride, Brown got his second wind and said the weeks flew by, until the last few days.

"The last couple days, it's always been about home, our kids, our friends," he said.

Monday's ride from Ridgeland to Charleston was the most beautiful leg of his journey, he said, and made him appreciate where he lives even more.

As he neared the finish line on Tuesday, trying to stay on schedule to be in Georgetown and Litchfield in the late afternoon, and Surfside Beach by 6 p.m., worry began to creep in.

"I don't want a flat tire, I don't want lightning, I don't want any hang-ups," he said.

Now that he's home, and in the "best shape of [his] adult life," Brown wants to spend time relaxing at the beach and getting back to his normal routine.

Several welcome home parties are planned and the Browns will be celebrating their 26th wedding anniversary on Thursday.

To read the Browns' daily blog about the trip, or to make a donation, go to www.theashleygride.com. For more about the foundation, go to www.ashleygfoundation.com.

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