His dream of seeing the country, while losing weight, takes off

In his travels, Eric Kramp plans to eat only at Wendy’s like this one at 56th Street and Fowler Avenue in Temple Terrace.

LUIS SANTANA | tbt*

In his travels, Eric Kramp plans to eat only at Wendy’s like this one at 56th Street and Fowler Avenue in Temple Terrace.

TAMPA

Eric Kramp isn't dying any time soon, he hopes, and he hasn't struck it rich.

But, at 35, he's quitting his job and hitting the road to see new places and meet new people. He says he has to.

His cubicle is killing him.

Kramp started working as a medical bills processor about four years ago. All day long, five days a week, he sits in a cubicle listening to talk radio and logging in lab results.

For lunch, he heads to the nearest fast-food joint. Every few hours, he hits the vending machine. Little by little, he's gained 100 pounds, hitting 326.

Last week, his doctor said his cholesterol was dangerously high and put him on a low-fat diet. "Everything is bad,'' Kramp said. "Just as I figured.''

• • •

Originally from South Dakota, Kramp moved to the Tampa area in 1997 to live near the beach. Athletic in high school, he loved the idea of playing tennis outdoors in March.

Kramp didn't flinch at turning 30, but panicked when 35 loomed. Tragedies struck a few of his co-workers. Life seemed so fragile.

"I started thinking about life, in general,'' he said. "When you sit all day long, you question a lot of things like existence and purpose and how long am I going to be here?''

About a year ago, Kramp started putting his dream of traveling the country in motion. He moved in with friends in Temple Terrace to save money and gave away his dog.

Last week he left his job at Quest Diagnostics. He leaves town today, or Tuesday at the latest. His first stop: Mobile, Ala.

• • •

Kramp plans to visit all 50 states and several cities in Canada and Mexico, logging an anticipated 15,000 miles in the cheapest rental car he can find. Along the way, he'll couch surf — stay with strangers who offer their couches to travelers for free. He'll also play tennis in every state.

Kramp intends to shed many of the pounds he's gained. He plans to eat nothing but salads, side dishes and items from Wendy's Super Value menu. He'll keep an emergency supply in a cooler for places that don't have a Wendy's.

Kramp insists he's not trying to copy Jared Fogle, who lost 240 pounds eating Subway subs. He did the Wendy's diet during high school and lost 20 pounds. He knows it works.

He also knows that day after day of chili, side Caesar salads and mandarin orange cups will get old — and could backfire. "It would be funny if I came back 50 pounds heavier,'' he said. "But I doubt it.''

He expects the journey to last 80 days and cost $6,000. He'll blog about the experience on his Web site, ericsdream.com, and hopes to write a book about it.

"I have a list of things I want to do and this is one of them,'' he said.

• • •

Kramp initially planned to take a leave of absence from work. His boss was all for it and prepared the paperwork. Then the news came from corporate: denied.

Deflated, Kramp hesitated to leave. But with encouragement from his boss to follow his heart, he quit.

"There's so many people who have dreams and they just don't follow them,'' said Rita Hill, his supervisor at Quest Diagnostics.

Hill promised to help him find a job when he returns but can't guarantee it. She hopes at least he stays in touch.

Kramp doesn't know what he'll do. He's got miles of road to think about it.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Susan Thurston can be reached at sthurston@tampabay.com.

His dream of seeing the country, while losing weight, takes off 09/07/08 [Last modified: Sunday, September 7, 2008 10:32pm]

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