by Joni Astrup
He’s known as the “World Guy” and there he was Monday morning, rolling a giant globe along the shoulder of Highway 10 in Elk River.
Erik Bendl, 49, is walking with the “World” and his dog Nice to raise awareness about diabetes and the importance of trying to prevent and control it through exercise.
He said he’s distilled his message to this: “Love yourself. Go for a walk.”
Bendl, of Louisville, Ky., has walked more than 2,000 miles since he took on this crusade.
He is inspired by his mom, Gerta, who died of complications from diabetes at age 54. She was a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives.
Bendl said while diabetes claimed his mother’s life, her diabetic brother is still going strong at 84 — proof that people can successfully manage the disease.
Bendl has taken his message to the highways and byways of 26 states so far. Last year he walked from Washington, D.C., to Maine.
He started his current journey on July 3 in Sheboygan, Wis. He walked across Wisconsin, went into Iowa and came north through Minnesota along scenic Highway 61, which hugs the Mississippi River.
He arrived in the Twin Cities last weekend. In St. Paul, someone cut his World but Bendl put a patch on it and was back in business.
He takes it all in stride.
“Things that happen don’t bother me anymore. I just deal with them,” he said.
In many cases, he’s seen the sunny side of human nature. Bendl said people have offered him rides many times and help when he’s needed it.
Globe was a gift
So what’s with the giant globe? A friend gave it to Bendl years ago and Bendl and his son used to play with it. After being encouraged to walk with the globe for charity, Bendl completed a walk around Kentucky in honor of his mother and to promote the American Diabetes Association.
In 2007 he did his first long trek with the globe from Kentucky to Pennsylvania. A carpenter by trade, Bendl has completed several other walks with the World since then.
“For the past four years I’ve been paying up my bills, getting all my worldly affairs in order and then I go out on the road again,” he said.
Throughout his travels, he relies on strangers to help him and give him a ride each night back to his support van. He calls these people his GPS — good people support.
He writes about his experiences on his blog at www.worldguy.org.
One recent entry is about a girl he met while walking from Anoka to Elk River.
Bendl wrote: “A girl stopped me yesterday who told me she was just diagnosed with type-1 diabetes two weeks ago. She was excited I was walking for the cause. After we parted I was sad such a beautiful young woman now had her world turned on its head.”
Day’s mileage: 14.7
Bendl’s journey to Elk River began at the dam in Anoka. He left there Monday morning. By noon he was approaching the Elk River city limits along east Highway 10.
A news crew from KARE-TV caught up with him late that afternoon, where a camera person shot footage of Bendl rolling the big World through downtown Elk River.
By 6 p.m. Bendl, his dog and the World were moving slowly down Orono Parkway near the Elk River Library on the way to the YMCA, where he showered and spent the night in his van in the Y’s parking lot.
Total mileage for the day was 14.7.
“I don’t recommend 14.7 miles,” Bendl said Tuesday. “I like to keep it around 9 or 10 (miles a day) It’s been working out well that way.”
By noon Tuesday he was already in Big Lake, where he was at the Lake Cafe with some people who planned to take him back to Elk River to pick up his van.
His immediate plans are to head to St. Cloud, then make a detour to Itasca State Park to see the headwaters of the Mississippi. After that he intends to keep rolling into the Dakotas and points west until the snow flies.
To learn more about the World Guy or to donate to the American Diabetes Association, go to www.worldguy.com or find Bendl on Facebook. Any donations made are used to support the American Diabetes Association and his walk to create awareness about diabetes, health with diabetes, and how to prevent and control diabetes.