So here begins the fear of the weather.
Today began in Center Harbor, which I know well as we’ve spent a bunch of summers near there. We had an overflow of day walkers, beginning with about 50 walkers, including an 11 year old and his Dad, midway through, a favorite student from 20 years ago, who now writes for the Times, and the famous Ben Cohen from Ben & Jerry’s (and his dog).
This was to be our last 20 mile day. Thankfully. I increasingly think New Hampshire is an Escher drawing, as we seem to be only climbing hills as we descend from the White Mountains.
We made it to Laconia by around 2:30pm, and the advance team had pulled together a spontaneous event at the Vintage Cafe — an incredibly cool place with about 50 people packed together for lunch and two short talks from Ben and me.
This is the experience I wanted most on this trip: making the idea convincing in 8 minutes, and without a machine. And here was born a new meme for me: The GD Walker. (No no no: Granny D, not that). We are GD Walkers, exercising a different but amazingly potent form of political expression.
But then the weather turned against us. A blizzard was brewing, and we were still 4 miles from our hotel. So after deliberation and a vote, we split an expedition team of 6, who took off into the snow (with lights and vests and extra extra care), while the rest were shuttled to the endpoint.
The weather does not look great for the week. Cold mainly — really cold a couple days. We’ve been blessed so far. Blessings seem to be fading. There are mainly short walks ahead. But difficult short walks to be sure.
Seven days done, and seven days left.
Day seven took us through the the incredibly beautiful Squam Lake region. My family has spent some summer vacations here, so it felt like coming home. The route was through many back roads, some unpaved. Maybe my favorite walk yet.
We were joined by many walkers from the area who joined for a couple hours, or stood by the side of the road in support. We have one more difficult day of walking — today — until the pace slows down as we enter the heavily populated area of the state.
Still searching for that 4% (96% of America thinks it “important” to reduce the influence of money in politics; part of the play of this trip has been to “find the 4%”). Someone from Wolf-PAC tells me he may have found one. A state representative, Democrat, told the Wolf-PAC representative she didn’t think corruption and dysfunction are a problem in Congress. Before Colbert sends John Oliver, I’m going to seek her out to find out what she means.
We crossed the 1/2 way point today, ending at 95.2 miles, with 90 to go. We’re through the most difficult walks, sort of. 20 more miles today. 17 the day after. But then it slows down.
We’ve been staying in the homes of volunteers the last few days. More have been joining along the way. The cars keep honking.
There’s one thing I think I know after a week out here that I didn’t when I started this walk.
The thing I always wondered was why what ever pundit said about this issue seemed true: that people don’t care about it. “Care about it,” in the sense that they actually do something about it. That they don’t seems true.
This was a puzzle, for me, because as I’ve interacted with people, I’ve always been struck by the opposite: a yearning, almost passionate desire, that this problem be fixed. So is that just because of the peculiarities of the sorts I connect with? Or maybe just further proof of my winning personality?
But I realized as I thought through this along this walk that there’s two obvious reasons why people who care about something don’t do something about it. They either don’t care enough (the assumption of the pols) or they don’t think anything can be done. It seems clear to me now that it’s the second, not the first, that explains this issue.
Again, as we discovered in our latest polling, 96% believe it at least “important” that the influence of money in politics be reduced. 68% “very important.” 28% at least important. No other issue has this sort of support.
But we also found 91% believe the problem won’t be fixed. We want it fixed; we don’t believe it can be fixed — just as most of us would want to time travel, but most of us don’t do much to advance the cause of time traveling. Or just like most in Egypt or Iraq wanted a different government. But few did anything about it.
This means the real work here is simple: give people a sense that change is possible. Show them how, make it seem manageable. Because if we could crack the 91%, we could free the energy needed to make this change happen.
So this is difficult, it turns out. I guess that should have been obvious, but still, difficult.
Tuesday we did a short walk from Gorham to Pinkham Notch — basically straight up the mountain. As we arrived at an Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the rain began, and with it began an insane 36 hours.
My second kid’s birthday was Wednesday, so a volunteer took me to Hertz (thanks Dotti), and I drove three hours to Boston to surprise him. We played and celebrated his birthday, I did some laundry, went to bed (complete peace), got up at 4, and at 4:30 we (Kai from 99Rise was joining the march and had come up from NY the night before and crashed at our house), drove back to Glen. A volunteer picked us up at Herz (thanks again, Dotti) took us back to Pinkham Notch. We walked 17 miles in warm, brilliantly sunny weather, to North Conway. I grabbed a coffee and then spoke for an hour (with questions) to a large group from the community — no chance to shower, or even change the hiking boots. Dinner, aching legs, crashed.
That wasn’t the difficult part. After I put my son to bed, he woke, crying. He came to me, put his arms around my neck, and begged me to stay. “Why do you need to go,” he asked. “I’m trying to help make things better for all of us, puppy.” “How is walking across New Hampshire ever going to make anything better.”
This is difficult.
Warm, sunny, and stunningly beautiful: the 16 miles from Milan to Gorham (through Berlin) was the most encouraging time I’ve ever known in this fight for reform. The word about this march has spread. Cars (and trucks) were constantly waving and honking. And the very best moment for me was coming up over a hill and finding this sign set beside the road:
(click on this image and you can see our Flickr group, all CC-BY licensed)
There hasn’t been a single person along these 47 miles so far who has had to be convinced of the problem. At least some see this as the start of a solution.
Our second day was perfect. A tough walk, but beautiful weather, in the most incredibly beautiful woods and fields of New Hampshire.
At this stage of the walk, we’re largely isolated. But the walk is clearly known, as people are constantly stopping along the road, or honking with their thumbs up as they pass. We did some door to door at the end of the day, waiting for a pickup. The guy opened his door (in really fancy pj bottoms), with: “hey, welcome, how’s the march?”
I’ve been having fun with one particular shtick. Our most recent poll found 96% of Americans answered “important” or “very important” to the question: “How important is it to you that the influence of money in politics be reduced?” (68% “very important,” 28% “somewhat important”). So I’ve taken on the challenge of finding the 4%. We met a couple state rangers who had just policed an ice fishing pond. “Are you,” I asked him, “one of that 4%?” “Hell no,” he told me. “And you won’t find any of those people in New Hampshire.”
We’ll see. So far, he’s right. Not yet met someone who identifies as anything other than a conservative. Nor anyone who doesn’t believe the influence of money should be reduced.
Today we have about 16 miles to cover on the way to Gorham.