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Cycling: James Brown rides again

By Roger Greene
Coastal Observer

It will be all downhill for James Brown and his fellow cyclists next weekend, even though they will start at Death Valley.

The fifth annual Ashley G Ride will begin at the famed Howard’s Rock in Clemson University’s Memorial Stadium (elevation 643 feet) and roll roughly 300 miles to Brown’s home in Surfside Beach.

Brown, a former coach and teacher at Waccamaw High, began the ride in memory of his former student Ashley Gaines. He led the boys and girls tennis teams at WHS to a combined eight Class AA titles during his tenure. Gaines was one of his players. She died in 2008 from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She was 18.

Brown’s initial treks were lone, longer distance journeys that saw him travel from as far away as Texas and California back to the East Coast.

But having relocated to the New York metro area, Brown has focused on shorter distances that involve more cyclists. Two riders joined him in last year’s trip from Barnwell to Surfside and 15 riders will accompany him on next week’s endeavor.

“We’re sitting on ‘go’,” Brown said. “We’ve been planning this for months and the excitement is building as we get closer. We’ve had so many people who have wanted to be involved and to help support the cause. It’s been a great thing to see.

“When I first started the ride, the longer trips were something I wanted to do. But not everyone can be part of those. It’s hard to get time off work, not to mention the physical aspect of the trip. They called for someone with a lot of experience and training.

“The shorter distances are a way for the ride to evolve. It’s less of a time commitment and both novice and experienced [cyclists] can participate.”

Funds raised by the charity ride go to the Ashley G Foundation, which was started by the Gaines family. Among the foundation’s goals are to provide assistance to families whose children are fighting cancer, offer financial support for research, and to assist in the efforts to purchase Christmas gifts for children who are in the oncology wing at Medical University of South Carolina.

The ride has raised more than $60,000 dollars in its first four years.

“I’m very proud of what’s being done in Ashley’s memory,” Brown said. “Even after I left Waccamaw [in 2013] the ride is something I was determined to continue. And I don’t see us stopping , I think we will continue to make it better.”

Though a South Carolina fan, Brown has no qualms about starting next week’s ride at Memorial Stadium, feeling the distance is optimal for the event’s purpose. The group plans on covering 75 miles each day, their routes being well-scouted for keeping a larger pack of riders away from as much heavy traffic as possible.

“I root for Clemson, just not when they’re playing Carolina,” Brown said with a laugh. “Clemson is one of the furthest places in the state from [Surfside], so it made sense to start there.

“We’ve been researching the route all year, so I think we have it down pretty good. The camaraderie and sense of purpose we have in the group is amazing, it’s been that way since we started planning. I appreciate how willing they’ve been to jump on board and take what we’re doing to another level.

“The networking, from things we’ve done on social media to word-of-mouth has been incredible. There are a lot of people who want to help.”

They can donate to the foundation by going to Ashley G Ride 2016 at gofundme.com.

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