Rui Dos Santos is starting his journey to the four corners of the United States from Mile Marker 0 to raise awareness of alternative fuel and reach out to child cancer patients.
His chariot for the journey is a 1984 Mercedes turbo diesel named The Deep Fryer, to which he made "minor" modifications so it could run on vegetable or soybean oil -- new or used.
"The first diesel engine actually ran on peanut oil," said Dos Santos. "All I did was create a better filtration system to weed out french fries and bread crumbs."
The trip begins July 27 on the corner of Whitehead and Fleming streets. From Key West, Dos Santos will head west to San Diego, north to Seattle, east to Maine, and back down to the Sunshine State all within three weeks' time.
He estimates he will use 750 gallons of soybean oil and get the same gas mileage as diesel fuel in a traditional car. Along the way, there will be no stops at gas stations -- instead, he'll fill up at grocery stores, as he cannot buy enough recycled oil to go the distance, he said.
Two years ago, Dos Santos, 50, was diagnosed with prostate cancer shortly after his older brother passed away from colon cancer. His doctor caught the prostate cancer at an early stage during a checkup.
He advises everybody over 40 to get checked, because doctors believe his brother had colon cancer for eight years before he was diagnosed.
"The disease is not just for people 75 years old, and it doesn't have to be a death sentence," Dos Santos said.
During this time, he sought treatment at the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute in Jacksonville and was surprised at the number of children he saw at the facility. He then was introduced to the organization BOB (Bringing Out the Best) for the Children Fund, based in Ithaca, N.Y.
The nonprofit donates 100 percent of its proceeds to helping children go through brain tumor proton therapy and providing support for their families.
"I thought there must be something I could do for the children and their families to ease the burden, whether it's money for a rental car or meals -- something," said Dos Santos.
And thus his road trip plan.
His son, Justin, has created a Facebook page, website and sticker for the back of the vehicle to raise money for the organization. To follow him or contribute to the cause, visit thefrenchfryconnection.com and "like" his Facebook page.
Alex Press, an intern with The Citizen, is a recent graduate of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.