NEW YORK – Steve Vaught is trying to shed unwanted pounds the long, slow way: step by step as he walks across the United States.
Vaught, 39, began his trek last April in Oceanside, Calif., and has covered more than 2,300 miles. As the distances have mounted, so too has interest in his journey, with supporters monitoring his progress online and newspapers and television stations tracking the adventure.
Vaught began the trip to lose weight and break the bad habits that led to his obesity.
"When I first started this walk, I weighed around 410 pounds, and I was carrying an 85-pound backpack," Vaught wrote on his Web site earlier this month as he crossed Ohio.
"Now I weigh 296 pounds, and I am carrying a pack that weighs only 30 pounds. That is an overall reduction of almost 175 pounds off of my feet. So it will only get easier from here," he said.
Vaught, who lives in San Diego, is about 600 miles from New York, with freezing Midwestern winds snapping at his back. He expects to finish the trip in about six weeks.
He initially thought he could avoid the temptation of junk food on the road, where he usually camps in a tent at night between towns.
"It is amazing how hard it is to find good, healthy food while on the road," he wrote. "Most restaurants, fast food and sit-downs, offer limited choices, and usually you are relegated to a small variety of beef products with potatoes."
Vaught used to manage auto-repair businesses, but quit work before making the transcontinental journey. He seeks donations for each mile he travels and advertising for his Web site.
Vaught said he was not always overweight. "I have been many things in my life, from a lanky teenager to a muscular Marine, and now I am fat," he said. "This latest incarnation is without a doubt the worst."