The moon, slowly but surely, is coming into alignment with the sun to create the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse, but at the same time, another entity is making a separate journey to the Hopkinsville, bringing the entire world.
Louisville carpenter Erik Bendl heard about the solar eclipse, and decided it was a once-in-a-lifetime event that he could not miss. However, he decided to make the journey to Hopkinsville a little more unique than the typical two and a half hour drive between the two cities.
“I thought, rather than spend two hours in a traffic jam, I would make it memorable,” he said.
For the past 19 years, Bendl has participated in long marches to raise awareness for diabetes. The marches have brought him to every state in the contiguous United States. He says he has walked 6,000 miles.
Bendl brings with him a six foot rubber globe, which he rolls next to him while he walks by the side of the road. He got the globe in the mid-80’s, when a friend of his, a teacher, told him she was going to throw it out if nobody took it.
Bendl used to inflate the globe and roll it to a park near his house in Louisville, where his son and his son’s friends would play with it. The sight of a man rolling a large globe around the streets of Louisville initially created some confusion.
“People kept asking what the cause was,” Bendl said. “It was so much fun.”
A local reporter eventually caught up with Bendl and asked him if he was walking with the globe for a cause. This started Bendl’s journey, of walking to bring awareness to diabetes.
“The goal is not really to get to the spot and do it in record time. It’s just to walk along the side of the road, bringing attention to diabetes, so that people might walk a little every day to keep the diabetes away,” Bendl said.
As Bendl walks along the side of the road, drivers pull over to snap pictures and talk to him. He shares the story of his mother, whom he walks in honor of, who died more than 30 years ago of complications related to diabetes at the age of 54.
“It boils down to, we all need to take care of ourselves. We all need to be active so we can help our health,” Bendl said.
The sight of a man rolling a globe along the side of the road has earned Bendl the nickname, “The World Guy.”
He said he encourages people to donate to whoever they are comfortable with, but donations made on his website, www.worldguy.org to his PayPal account, go to the American Diabetes Association. Bendl said people can also donate directly to the association.
Aside from the awareness he has raised for diabetes, Bendl said he enjoys the conversations he has with folks who stop to talk to him.
“Sometimes it will be a 15 minute conversation. Sometimes I tell my life story in the course of a traffic light,” he said.
At other times, he said people have sent him messages on his Facebook page, telling him how they managed their diabetes symptoms after running into him on one of his walks. This can happen months after he meets these people.
With an estimated 100,000 people coming to Hopkinsville from across the world for the eclipse, Bendl has the opportunity to spread his message far and wide. He said he’ll try to help out with the eclipse setup when he arrives.
“I’m a carpenter so I can be useful,” he said.
Bendl recently passed through Bowling Green and is currently en route to Russellville before he heads on to Hopkinsville. His sister, who lives in Virginia, has reserved a viewing location where they will observe the Aug. 21 event.
With the eclipse approaching, Bendl is sure he will get to Hopkinsville on time.
“I average about ten miles a day, so I need to slow my role or I might get to Hopkinsville too early,” he said.
Reach Sam Morgen at 270-887-3241 or firstname.lastname@example.org