By Chris Sokoloski
James Brown is 2,071 miles into his cross-country bicycle trip and the finish line is in sight.
He has seven more days of riding, and one rest day, before he can once again sleep in his own bed in Surfside Beach.
Brown, Waccamaw High School's tennis coach, is riding from Huntington Beach, Calif., to Surfside Beach 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.
Brown and his wife, Sonja, who is driving the route with him, have been on the road for six weeks.
"It's a challenging time," Brown said. "We both miss our children and our friends. It's hard to believe when you've been gone so long."
Brown didn't ride last Wednesday, instead spending a quiet Fourth of July in Greenville, Miss., where fireworks are banned.
He was happy to put Texas and Arkansas in his rear view mirror.
"Right before Dallas was the worst," Brown said. "The winds and the hills and the weather were just terrible. And I didn't like Arkansas too much."
Since then the terrain has flattened out, the weather has improved and the traffic has thinned.
Brown is also happy to be back in a more familiar part of the South.
"It feels much more like home," he said. "I love the [Southeastern Conference] and around here all anybody cares about is football."
Brown has crossed into Alabama, where he'll ride the same route Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a Civil Rights march from Selma to Montgomery.
Sonja is leaving for a few days on a business trip back to Texas and Brown will be joined by Tom Tracy, a childhood friend, for a few days.
The Browns have been enjoying their rest days and non-cycling time, with rodeos, line dancing, movies (including "Magic Mike"), visits with old friends, and a lot of history.
"We've had a good time," Brown said. "All these little small towns are just great. Well-kept and clean. So much history."
To follow Brown's progress or make a donation, go to theashleygride.com. You can also read a daily blog by the Browns on the site.
For more information on the foundation, go to ashleygfoundation.com.
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