Erik Bendl gets a lot of looks from passing drivers.
But they are not the only ones that find the 57-year-old Louisville native pushing a massive globe along the roadside a curious sight.
“Cattle tend to follow me down the fence row,” Bendl said. “One time, all these cows, sheep and horses were all sunning, and they all got up — probably about 200 of them — and just started following about half a mile down this fence line. That was pretty strange.”
On Thursday, Bendl was in Frankfort on his walk with the massive globe from Louisville to Lexington — which he estimated as about a four-day trek. It was a shorter walk than normal because he was celebrating the first one he ever took in 1999 to raise awareness of diabetes in hopes of preventing others from suffering through the loss of a loved one.
“I lost my mother at 54 years old to diabetes in the '80s,” Bendl said. “So I try to tell people to get out and take care of themselves. ‘Love thyself’ is my motto.”
Bendl said he has spent the past 11 years walking through the continental U.S. with the globe and “quit keeping count” of the mileage after about 6,000 miles.
He first got the idea of walking across country from a columnist for his hometown newspaper who’d asked him what cause he would walk for. He then took his first trek in 1999 without the globe from Louisville to Lexington. He then walked to a surprise birthday party for 80-year-old uncle in Pittsburgh.
“By then, I figured I wanted to touch foot in all 48 states,” Bendl said.
Bendl later adopted the globe as a symbol of his cause because diabetes “is a worldwide problem,” he said. His longest trip since has taken five months and three days.
Bendl said that other than blisters and Florida sand spurs, the most difficult thing is staying optimistic.
“Keeping going is hard,” he said. “It’s not difficult, but who does this? Nobody.”
The reception he receives going from town to town with the massive globe, however, is a positive force.
“Generally, people are very good,” Bendl said. “Only people that seem negative are usually going 50 mph in the other direction. I get good reactions from most, though.”
Bendl documents his travels along the way on his personal Facebook page.