From sea to shining sea

Quincy Briscoe stuck his back tire in the Atlantic Ocean on Sunday and started pedaling, but that's hardly where his journey began.

The former Ashland High School student is riding his bike across the U.S. in an effort to raise money for an outreach organization that funds educational programs for poverty-stricken Cambodians and others struggling around the globe.

The 18-year-old is attempting to raise $1 for each of the 3,034 miles he expects to travel on his lone ride across the southern U.S., he said.

Wednesday, he pedaled about 70 miles, and today, he's looking to make 80 more, which would put him in Quincy, Fla. He is trying to average about 75 miles a day, he said, estimating that he will arrive at the Pacific Ocean in mid-March.

He plans to donate the money to Project Enlightenment, a nonprofit organization based in the U.S.

Briscoe was turned on to Project Enlightenment during a 2007 trip to Cambodia with his father, where the two stayed in a remote village planting rice and interacting with the locals there.

Briscoe, then 16, bought one of the local kids his first bike, making it possible for the youngster to attend school regularly, he said. And, being a standout tennis player during his years in Ashland, he handed out about 100 tennis balls during the trip.

"Those kids loved the tennis balls," said his dad, Christopher Briscoe, a longtime Ashland photographer. "It got to the point where people would just run up and ask him for one.

"He was like the pied piper of that village."

People can donate to the effort by visiting and clicking on the "give" button. The money is sent directly to Project Enlightenment.

"I'm just trying to do as much as I can to help them, and raising money is the best way I can think of doing that," Quincy Briscoe said. "The money will go to Project Enlightenment, and they will disperse it where help is needed."

Briscoe didn't graduate from AHS, having left his senior year to finish high school in La Jolla, Calif.

His parents both lived in Ashland, and he was virtually on his own in La Jolla until his mom moved to San Diego halfway through the year. He said he left to work on his tennis game but also because in Ashland, "I could just see how my life was going to turn out."

"It was too predictable," he said.

That's where Briscoe's journey began.

"A lot of people were telling me not to go, that senior year was the best year of high school," he said. "For the first few months I was down there, I wasn't making too many friends, and I regretted it. I regretted going, but I haven't regretted anything about it since then."

After graduating from La Jolla last year, he decided that he wasn't going to go directly to college. Europe sounded better, he thought.

"He's always been a kid that thought out of the box," said his father. "While all the kids were putting so much energy into SAT scores and where they were going to college, last year, he was thinking more about the bigger picture."

Quincy Briscoe and his dad left for Paris last October and traveled to London and Italy for a few weeks together before father went home and son stayed behind.

Briscoe traveled to Antibes, France, and worked as a deckhand there on the private yacht of Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Prince of Qatar, he said.

"It was just a way to make quick money," said Briscoe, who initially planned to work on the cruise ships that leave the French port for the Bahamas and the Caribbean a few times each year.

They had all left by the time he'd arrived, though, so he decided that biking nearly 600 miles to Barcelona, Spain, would have to do.

"I decided to do that in about 20 minutes," he said, after a man tried to pawn a used bike off on him while he was working, which he purchased for 130 euros.

The trip to Spain was grueling, he said, taking about two weeks.

"Drivers in France don't like to move over for bicyclists "… they just whiz by you a few feet away at about 60 miles per hour," he said. "That bothered me a little bit."

After spending a little over a month absorbing Barcelona, Briscoe traveled back to Paris, then Venice, and then to Rome, where he caught a flight back to the U.S. on Jan. 17.

"When I arrived back here, in the U.S., I definitely looked at the American flag differently. It has a new meaning to it," he said. "I really felt like I was home.

"But, I didn't want the adventure to end there."

So, after spending a few days in Atlanta with his dad, Briscoe decided that another bicycle ride was in line, this time across America, starting from St. Augustine, Fla.

"That's pretty much how it happened," he said, "but I wanted to do it for something bigger than myself."

Briscoe said he's going to ride until the front tire of his bike is wet from the Pacific Ocean, at a beach on Marine Street in La Jolla.

"Then I'll probably be done," he said. "It's a place my friends and I would always go to hang out last year after school."

As for now, he's looking forward to the long ride ahead of him, another peanut butter and honey sandwich for dinner, and a dark alley for resting his worn-out legs at night.

"And that's all I need right now," he said. "A little adventure."

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