An Indiana man has embarked on a grand gesture designed to win back his estranged wife and get himself into shape: He is biking across the country.
Eric Hites, 40, created a website and blog dubbed "Fat Guy Across America" to share his story as a 563-pound man attempting to cross the continental U.S. with little more than two wheels and determination.
Hites, of Danville, Indiana, said he decided on the trip after he and his wife separated last year. He explained that poor health and increasing weight started causing problems in the marriage.
“Mostly because of my weight I was depressed and grumpy and it kind of fell apart,” Hites told ABC News today from Rhode Island.
While he wanted to stay with his wife, he said he knew he needed to make some kind of gesture to show her he was committed to both the marriage and getting healthy. One day he heard the Proclaimer's song “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” and he decided he could prove his love and get in shape with a similar yet longer trip.
“I can’t walk another 500 miles, but I can do it on a bicycle,” Hites recalled thinking at the time. “I can do it from East coast to West coast to lose weight.”
Hites started his trip two months ago in Massachusetts after getting approval from his physician and cardiologist. He went slowly to build up stamina and because he was hauling another 300 pound trailer behind him.
“The first day I cranked out 100 yards and [took] a break,” he said. Now, he said he can easily bike a mile before stopping for a few moments. He’s currently in Tiverton, Rhode Island, and has already has lost at least 60 pounds.
He also said his relationship with his wife seems to be somewhat repaired.
“She thought I was all talk [before the trip],” he told ABC News.
A few weeks in, “she changed her tune," he said, and "about a month into it, we rededicated unofficially.”
He said he still wants to finish his trip, though he has revised the trip length from four months to seven months.
“In the first week I had a couple doubts. ... I had self doubt about ‘What have I done?’” he recalled. “I’m doing it because I love my wife and it kept me going. ... I want to spend the rest of my life with her. That drives me.”
Hites said he was also surprised when he attracted a few thousand fans online who were inspired by his quest to get healthy. He has now joined forces with a trainer and has created an online exercise group to help others in his situation who want to get healthy.
“I've gotten so many messages about being an inspiration. That was one of my primary goals when I set out,” he said on Facebook.
He’s got a long road ahead but he said he’s just looking forward to his next big stop in Philadelphia, where he expects to meet a few of his followers.
“I’m most excited about getting to Philadelphia and I’m excited to go to steps where Rocky was,” Hites said, referring to the movie character's iconic run up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.