Money Trail: A trek that takes a lot of planning and teamwork

Last modified: 7/14/2015 7:42:31 PM
Kai Newkirk organized a 500-mile march across California to promote political equality regardless of wealth. In part, he learned how to coordinate that movement, an effort of the group 99 Rise that he said was a “huge logistical undertaking,” from his experience last year with the N.H. Rebellion.

If you’re looking to rally people around a cause, he said, it starts with you.

“You start with a vision,” he said at a meeting of the N.H. Rebellion yesterday. “Then you get whoever you know who might believe in it too and might be willing to work to realize it.”

His vision was to walk from Los Angeles to Sacramento, Calif. – even if it was by himself – to promote legislation asking the state and its congressional delegation to recognize and even amend the Constitution to include a provision demanding an effort to curb corruption in government. A third bill he promoted was to increase transparency in political advertising.

They arrived in the state capital after 37 days of walking. Newkirk said not every night of the trek was planned, but as they moved along and gained attention, they didn’t have any problems finding places to stay.

The N.H. Rebellion, with its much shorter timespan and distance, follows a more strict plan as it makes its way from Dixville Notch to Concord – and as simultaneous walks begin out of Portsmouth, Nashua and Keene.

N.H. Rebellion Director Jeff McLean said this year’s event is much more complicated than the previous one because of the additional routes. He said compared with last year, which had an abundance of organizers with clear roles, the team members have been stretched out.

“What we did is we took it and we quadrupled the complexity because we’ve got four routes,” he said. “The good thing is we have the experience of last year. We knew what to be prepared for.”

Already, the number of registered walkers compared with last year’s event has increased dramatically. McLean said 100 pre-registrations last year turned into 207 walkers. This year, there have been more than 400 registrations and only one walk has begun.

But that doesn’t mean they’re unprepared. As the Dixville Notch group makes its way to Concord, volunteer drivers constantly leapfrog the group with signs cautioning drivers that they’ll soon encounter the walkers.

Xanni Brown, the walk organizer, is typically in her Subaru Outback as one of the drivers moving signs. She communicates via walkie-talkie with the consistent leader of the pack, Kevin Jones, and Jake and Mary Redway, the so-called “sweepers,” who ensure no one falls behind.

“It’s not going to be too glamorous, but I’m in here answering a lot of emails and doing logistic stuff,” Brown said.

Besides putting out fires – or catching them before they break out – Brown does all of the scheduling to ensure the walkers are on time, well-fed and safely housed at night. She said she made dozens of phone calls before the walk began to find housing each night, with churches – nonprofits, volunteers or motels – and schedule events to train in activism and entertain with a play honoring Doris “Granny D” Haddock and a talk by N.H. Rebellion founder Lawrence Lessig.

While Brown and another driver moved signs ahead of the pack, Joe Palin spent the first few days of the walk behind the wheel of the RV supporting the walkers as they endure extreme cold.

“That entails driving a little bit in front of the pack (and waiting), so when people catch up to me if they’re too cold, too tired, too hungry or too hurt, they hop in the RV,” he said.

Palin spent eight years as a volunteer firefighter, often driving 45-foot truck, so when it comes to navigating tight streets in a large vehicle during adverse weather conditions, he offers a valuable asset to the group.

“That was something I really used to enjoy,” he said. “There’s something about being behind the wheel of a really huge vehicle.”

McLean joined the group two days ago and took the wheel of the RV yesterday to give Palin a chance to get on his feet. He brought with him more signs for the walkers to carry as they enter more densely populated towns, as well as string to allow people to hang signs off their bodies and pamphlets to help spread the word about attempt to end corruption in government.

As the group first entered North Conway yesterday, they stopped to make sure they were all clumped together and carrying a variety of signs with prominent slogans. They were quickly met with a warm welcome, as many drivers excitedly tooted their horns as they went by, and a handful of day-walkers joined the pack for its final mile.

(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325 or or on Twitter @NickBReid.)


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