Eric Hites messed up big. He admits he’s always been a big guy, but he really let himself go over the last few years. Ballooning up to 560 pounds, the morbid obesity came with a healthy serving of orneriness: he was always in a bad mood and just unpleasant to be around.
And he made mistakes. Lots of ’em. Long story short, his wife left him.
So, Hites embarked on a super-sized mea culpa washed down with a glass of “look, honey, I can change”: he’s attempting to pedal across the country and recalibrate his life in the process.
“My wife and I separated because I had problems finding work, and I was going downhill emotionally,” Hites told USA Today. “My wife was a widow before and she didn’t want to go down that road again. The weight was what caused a lot of my problems. I wanted to prove to her that I can take my health back and be able to grow old to her. I wanted to build a new future for us.”
Hites describes himself as an artist and writer. Last month, the author of the cookbook Everyone Loves Ramen, a book described in one Amazon review as “Not for the health concious (sic), but oh! so good!”, started his cross-country journey in Falmouth, Massachusetts, on a Mongoose Blackcomb.
This bike — which he bought for $17 and which was originally sold in department stores — was never intended for use by someone Hites’ size. The front and rear shocks were surely pushed to their limits, and that’s not even factoring in the rickety cart he was pulling.
It was his wheels that became his Achilles heel; they couldn’t support his weight. He had them trued multiple times before they became (unsurprisingly) irreparable. Most riders his size go with hand-built wheels constructed to support two riders: wheels for a tandem bike.
Ninety miles into the ride, after averaging five to eight miles a day, Hites’ wheels were shot. And that’s not all that was going south. During those early days, he lost his wife’s engagement ring — twice. And the rain cover on his tent ripped, and when he tried to sew it, the needle broke.
Stranded in Tiverton, Rhode Island, with a bike that didn’t move, Hites’ plan was to wait until someone donated a replacement. If no one did, he said he’d add some straps to his cart and pull it cross-country by hand.
A local shop, Newport Bikes, stepped up with a GT mountain bike and Hites is rolling once again. His reported weight loss over the first few weeks? Sixty pounds. (He still eats like a large man, however; one of his early meals included chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, tater skins and a Kobe beef burger.) And he’s readjusted his estimate for the continental crossing from four months to one year.
Look at the comments on any of the stories about Hites and most are inspired by his romantic and ambitious gesture. A few think his eyes are too big for his appetite for adventure, made only more dangerous by the fact that he doesn’t seem to have done much research into how risky this trip could be for someone his size.
That’s compounded by what appears to be almost zero planning on his part — just a loose idea of his route, and for lodging he’s often setting up camp in public places.
One of his primary inspirations for the trip? The excellent song by The Proclaimers, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” with the lines, “But I would walk 500 miles / And I would walk 500 more / Just to be the man who walked a thousand miles / To fall down at your door.”
It’s almost impossible not to get behind Hites’ mammoth gesture: a 40-year-old dude wearing size-70 pants and a 10X (XXXXXXXXXXL) T-shirt slowly traversing the country to win back his beloved’s heart, getting by on meals bought for him by strangers, camping on bike paths and in church parking lots. If he makes it to Pasadena, California, he’ll be a different man on the inside and out and he’ll have done a great song one better.
Follow Eric Hites’ travels on Fatguyacrossamerica.com.
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