It’s like buying a saxophone and selling it six months later.
That’s what Brett Bramble thought when the idea of walking across America first came to him. It was fun to think about, but felt more like a pipe dream than something attainable -- or anything that even made sense. The idea festered, though, and within a couple of weeks, something dawned on him.
He had to do it for his sister.
He researched, gathered supplies and mapped out a course from Cape Henlopen in Delaware to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. He had no doubts, just 3,000 miles ahead of him and his stroller — Lieutenant Dan. On March 15, the second anniversary of his sister’s death, life began -- 3 mph at a time.
Brett and Brittany Bramble were two of seven siblings growing up in a suburb outside Atlanta, Georgia.
“We have a good, loving family,” he said.
But sometimes, love isn’t enough. In hindsight, he realizes the parents in his circle had no idea what kids did in their free time or what they had access to. He saw a lot of his peers struggle with drugs, including his sister.
“A lot of people grew out of it, and some people didn’t,” he said.
His sister was married for nine years and had three sons. Things seemed to be going OK, despite her drug use. But after a divorce, she began to use more, turning to “bigger and better stuff” — heroin.
“We just thought that was pretend,” he said.
Heroin would never touch their family. But it did. And it took his sister on March 15, 2014.
Her life was cut short, and now he lives for two.
This is why he walks — to educate, to prevent and to leave his story along the way.
Fast forward from March to October, and you’ll find Bramble pushing Lieutenant Dan through the Sierra. He will tell you Nevada has been his favorite state — the state's name pronounced correctly, for the record. U.S. 50 took him from Utah to California, and everything in between allowed him to close the circle of grief. The loneliest highway gave him time to heal a wound he thought had already closed.
“I owe that place forever,” he said.
A chance encounter in Nevada took him on a detour to Sutro Elementary School in Dayton. In front of about 130 fifth- and sixth-graders, Bramble told his story.
“Who all has a brother or sister here?” he asked.
The majority raised their hand. He explained that the reason for the walk across the country wasn’t for fun, but to honor his sister who had died, and after a few tries they figured it out — she died from drugs. It was Red Ribbon Week. He put on kid gloves and moved to third- and fourth-grade classrooms where he was able to raise awareness and make it fun.
He doesn’t always know the impact his story makes, but in the case of the kids at Sutro Elementary, it was clear. After arriving in Carson City, he received an email with about 40 notes from the students. One of the girls even convinced her mom to make the drive to Carson City just to say hello from the road — and to get his autograph.
“Those kids give me the strength I need to finish. I’ve got some mountains and weather up ahead. It’s nothing.”
But being on the road isn’t always sunny.
“It snowed in West Virginia, rained all through the Midwest, and I thought I was going to melt in Kansas,” he said.
He even gave Missouri a new name — “misery.”
But he said you get used to the traffic, the wild animals and a daily diet of energy bars: “You just deal with it.”
On his arm, he wears four bracelets. One is from the students at Sutro Elementary and three are from mothers he met along the way who have lost children to drug overdoses. He said the highlight of his walk has been the people he's met.
People stop. They bring water, cookies and hugs, even money. They offer their home for the night. They just want to help. He was reluctant to accept at first, but all the help he has received has made him want to carry that on.
“I haven’t been that alone out here," he said. "With Facebook, I have 80,000 moms that have adopted me. ... I feel like I’m being carried across the country.”
His projected route will land him at the Golden Gate Bridge on Nov. 12.
“I want to lay in bed for two weeks and watch Netflix with my daughter. And wear cotton,” he said.
After that, Bramble plans to write a book, get some merchandise together and go on a speaking tour. He wants to tell his story to anyone who will listen, encourage people to walk with him and share the love that was shared with him.
“It’s just the beginning,” he said.
Learn the signs. If you see someone overdose, call 911 immediately.
Nevada is a state with access to Naloxone, an opioid antagonist which can reverse the effects of an overdose if administered correctly and quickly. The drug is temporary, however, and medical attention must be sought immediately.
Nevada has enacted a form the Good Samaritan or 911 drug immunity law providing some level of immunity for those seeking 911 assistance or medical help for opiate-related overdose.