Over a hundred thousand people are descending on San Diego for Comic-Con International on Thursday, but some journeys are longer and more emotional than others.
Minnesota native Kevin Doyle is an avid "Star Wars" and sci-fi fan, and met his wife Eileen through the international "Star Wars" costuming group, the 501st Legion. Doyle proposed to Eileen while dressed as Darth Vader in 2009 and they married in 2010 with a mechanical R2-D2 serving as ring bearer. Sadly, Eileen was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2011, and died 13 months later.
Doyle took a trip out to Petaluma, California, earlier this year to visit Rancho Obi-Wan, a "Star Wars" museum started by Doyle's longtime friend Steve Sansweet. While he was there, he decided to go to Comic-Con, the annual entertainment geekfest in San Diego. When he used Google Maps to calculate the distance between San Francisco and San Diego, he couldn't believe the result -- 501 miles.
As a member of the 501st Legion, Doyle saw it as a sign, and decided to honor Eileen by making the 501-mile journey to Comic-Con on foot. He started the journey on June 6, and has walked between 20 and 45 miles per day, traveling from campground to campground along the California coast. Doyle is definitely taking the scenic route, and when he sets foot in the halls of the San Diego Convention Center, he will have walked about 645 miles in total. You can see images and other insights from his journey on the 501MileWalk Twitter page.
Sansweet used his connections at Lucasfilm to get Doyle a free four-day pass to the show, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, and members of the 501st Legion raised enough money from contributors to put Doyle up in a hotel in San Diego for the duration of the show.
In addition to helping Doyle continue to heal from the loss of his beloved wife, the walk is also a way to raise money for a charity Doyle developed in her honor. The charity, called Eileen's Little Angels, will provide comfort bags of bandanas, blankets and coloring books featuring Eileen's artwork to children going through chemotherapy. You can donate to the cause on its Crowdrise page.
Doyle will complete the first leg of his journey when he arrives in San Diego on Thursday. After the show, he plans to take the train back up the California coast to revisit some of his favorite cities from the monthlong journey.
Needless to say, we hope the Force will be with him.