Every now and then, somebody sets off to walk across America. Doris Haddock, 90, -- "Granny D," as she is called -- walked and cross-country skied the whole 5,000 kilometers in 2000 to drum up interest in election campaign finance reform. Others walk to raise money for charities. Even Art Garfunkel of the Simon & Garfunkel singing team walked from coast to coast, just to see if he could do it. True, it took him 12 years in 40 bursts, but he made it and wrote songs about the experience.
Then there's Steve Vaught, an auto mechanic in San Diego, California, who was thudding from job to job -- his life going nowhere fast. Thudding, because, at more than 180 kilos, he was a really fat guy. Approaching his 40th birthday, depressed at having tried and quit all manner of diets and exercise routines, he told his wife, April, he'd never make it to 50 if he didn't do something dramatic.
So 3 months ago, he quit his job and, without a lick of physical preparation, set out for New York City. When he last checked in with April, who is charting his progress on an online Web log, he was in Arizona, about 600 kilometers from home. He said he had already lost 30 kilos and 3 toenails -- and fought off cramps, blisters and boredom. For his 40th birthday present, he gave himself a day off. He needed the rest, since he's now trudging across the blistering desert.
Along the way, strangers have taken him in, given him money and lots of shoes. As they follow his progress online, hundreds of fat people have written him notes of encouragement and poured out stories of their own battles with obesity.
Some people say Steve Vaught is risking, not saving, his life. To prove them wrong, he has 9 more states, 4400 kilometers, and a whole lot of kilos to go.