After seeing "Fat Man" on the "Today" show in January, Excel Graphics' employees Jody Grey, Doug Hayes and Dennis Sawyer watched for Steve Vaught to pass by the business on his way east. They ran across the highway on a Friday afternoon last January to have their picture taken with Vaught and offer words of encouragement.
"I love it when people come out to see me and talk for a moment," Vaught said. "But out here I just get into my own world inside my head and I never quite expect them to walk up on me."
Steve Vaught captured the attention of Clay Countians after he was interviewed on the "Today" show in Terre Haute last January.
He was 39 years old and weighed about 320 pounds after walking 2,000 miles, he told The Brazil Times, while grabbing a quick bite at a local restaurant.
The self-proclaimed "fat man" has finished his cross-country trek to New York City.
"I'm glad that I'm here, but for me it's never been about the destination," Vaught told The Associated Press as he crossed the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey to Manhattan more than a year after he began the trip to lose weight and find happiness. "It's been about the journey."
He began the 3,000-mile trek from his Oceanside, Calif., home to Manhattan on April 10, 2005, when he weighed 410 pounds and was suffering severe depression after accidentally killing two pedestrians while driving 15 years ago.
He ended the journey Tuesday -- about 100 pounds lighter.
Along the way, he slept in tents and motels and went through 15 pairs of shoes, more than 30 pairs of socks and six backpacks. But he didn't measure mileage or the food he ate, and he said he aimed to change his behavior, not just his weight.
His motivation came in part from his love for his family.
"Dying from obesity is not pretty. It's the epitome of selfishness," he said while in Brazil. "If I didn't do something to change things I knew I was telling my family that eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it was more important than they were. I couldn't do that. I asked myself: Is material things really worth dying for? No they're not."
So, he started one day by walking a quarter-mile.
"I was so exhausted afterwards, I went home and slept for three hours on the couch," he said, laughing at the memory. "But I was determined to change things, and, after talking it over with my wife, quitting my job and training till I could walk at least four miles straight, I left 12 days later."
It may seem strange that he would leave his family to show his love for them, but he sees it this way:
"My family may suffer a little now, but when this is over I'll be healthier. I'll be alive to be there and fix what goes wrong," he said. "The greatest asset we have as Americans is so overlooked. This is the one place where you can fall flat on your face and get right back up again. You try that anywhere else and you'll never get back up."
Reporter Ivy Herron and The Associated Press contributed to this report.