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Ich helfe den Kindern: German biker traverses U.S. to help sick kids

Staff writer

A German man on an unusual mission rode his bike into Marion on Monday.

Looking out a window of a hospital room in Cologne and seeing young cancer patients in a children’s hospital next door brought Marco Isele a different perspective on life.

The children were unable to go outside and be in the sun, to ride a bicycle, or to do anything but be in a hospital.

“They cannot go anywhere,” he said.

He wanted to do something for them that would make their lives better.

Days after getting out of the hospital, he quit his high-paying job as a personnel manager, bought an airline ticket to Los Angeles and a July 23 return ticket from New York, flew out of Frankfurt, Germany, and set out on his touring bike to ride across the United States.

He rode into Marion on Monday, and spent that night at Marion County Lake, where lake director Isaac Hett fed him dinner.

“Everybody in Germany said, ‘Are you stupid? You have a nice job. You have a nice flat. Are you crazy?’ But I have to do it,” Isele said.

Life isn’t about making money and having expensive things, he said.

The trip has been grueling. Along the way, he pedaled through the desert in Arizona and Utah, spent seven hours pedaling up Pike’s Peak and back down again, and now is making his way across Kansas.

In some ways, he’s on the journey of a lifetime. He’s had an up-close look at Americans and their culture — which he sometimes doesn’t understand — but says he’s been treated mostly with kindness.

He does notice prices are higher here than in Germany. He’s heard many people blame that on government.

“I notice people are more likely to come talk to me,” he said.

It’s not that way in Germany.

In other ways, he has moments he thinks he must be crazy. He has to find food every day, and it takes about 4,000 calories to keep up the pace.

“I hate my bike,” he said. “I hate driving it.”

What he’d love to be doing is fishing, he said.

But what he loves more is knowing that children at the hospital have something to look forward to. They watch him on video he records with a drone for two hours every day and see photos of where he’s been and people he’s met.

“I have seen Monument Valley, and it was wonderful,” he said. “When you’re sitting there, you feel the power.”

His biggest challenge has been finding water. As he rode through a reservation, the Native Americans there gave him water to drink and had to remind him to drink slowly because he was so thirsty he was chugging it down.

He spent a night with firefighters in a town along the way.

While pedaling through Arizona “in the middle of nowhere,” a Red Bull truck pulled over, and the driver gave him cans of Red Bull.

His father’s attitude toward him has changed as well.

“My dad is a strong man,” Isele said. “He said, ‘You never cry.’ Now I’m talking to him on the phone and he said, ‘I’m so proud of you.’ Dad was proud of me, and that was the biggest present I ever got is my dad was proud of me.”

But his boss wasn’t so proud.

“My boss hates me,” he said.

When he gave his boss two days notice, the boss went ballistic — fired him and ordered him to return a company car and anything else that belonged to the company.

“Deep in my heart, I know this is the right thing,” Isele said. “It’s good for the kids, and it’s good for my soul, and it’s good for me.”

A photo and video log of his journey can be seen at https://www.instagram.com/marco__isele.

Last modified June 29, 2022

 

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