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Having a ball: Kentuckian and his dog walking cross country to emphasize dangers of diabetes

Erik Bendl of Louisville, Ky., walks with his boxer, Nice, along state Highway 200 Wednesday afternoon on his way to the headwaters of the Mississippi at Itasca State Park. With his giant six-foot globe, he brings attention to diabetes awareness. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

With more than 3,000 miles of roadway in 26 states under his feet, Erik Bendl and his faithful canine companion Nice are on their fifth cross-country trip to bring awareness of the seriousness of diabetes.

He can't be missed along the roadway he has a six-foot-diameter globe tethered to his waist.

According to Bendl, his mother died at 54 in 1977.

"Much too young," he said. "But she did not take care of her diabetes."

His message is "Love yourself - go for a walk."

His walk began July 3 in Sheboygan, Wis. He has walked through Iowa and is continuing through Minnesota to the Headwaters of the Mississippi

River then off to North Dakota and South Dakota until he is greeted by winter. Then its back home to Louisville, Ky.

His first trip began in 2007 from Washington D.C., to Maine. He tries to walk between 10 to 15 miles a day. He has a van that he leaves at the start of each day's walk and relies on some kind soul to drive him back to each evening. He left Forestedge's Winery near Laporte Wednesday morning to finish the day at Kabekona Convenience Store.

The toughest part of the trip Bendl, said is "dragging myself up each morning."

His trip is slow going because he is constantly stopped and asked his cause.

The globe is a recycled ball from his son's school. It was an eye catcher when he played with his son so he figured it was the perfect tool for his trips.

With a short pole in one hand and a big bobber attracted to his waist Bendl is more than happy to stop and talk about the seriousness of diabetes.