Eric Hites hit rock bottom earlier this year. At age 40, after having worked as a D.J., roadie, telemarketer, pizza delivery man and bartender, he found himself unemployed, and collection agencies were on his tail. His wife, who had left him in July 2014, was living with another man.
His weight reached 567 pounds. He told himself he had a choice: Rot away in Danville, Ind., where he had been living with his parents, or do something drastic to save his life and marriage. He considered a gastric bypass, but while listening to the Proclaimers’ hit “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” he had another idea.
The narrator of that rousing 1988 song vows to walk 500 miles (and 500 more) to prove his devotion to the one he loves. Mr. Hites figured he would not be able to walk such a distance, given that, in addition to carrying so much weight, he was a heavy smoker.
But maybe he could make it that far on a bicycle. Maybe he could even pedal more than 3,000 miles, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. He could see the country, lose some pounds, get a book deal out of it and show the woman he loved that he could change.
In March he created a blog called Fat Guy Across America. He started exercising. He called his estranged wife and told her he was about to do something that would blow her mind. She was skeptical.
He bought a used Mongoose mountain bike from friends in Terre Haute, Ind., for $17. When he took it for a test drive, he was out of breath after 100 yards.
On June 7 he set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for his epic plan. The next week his father drove him east, to the coastal town of Falmouth, Mass., and he wept when he dropped his son off at the side of a road. Mr. Hites had $200. Hitched to the bike was a trailer stocked with a tent and 300 pounds of supplies.
Four months later, having shed about 70 pounds during a zigzag journey that has moved along in fits and starts, Mr. Hites reached New York.
At this point he had roughly 23,000 Facebook followers and numerous online detractors, who traced his slow progress and posted comments suggesting his trip was some kind of elaborate scam. They called him a digital panhandler and worse.