Walk Across The District – Part 2

Published 10:04 am Thursday, June 23, 2016

Dan Barrett walked 100 miles across the district in his recent run for Congress.  The following is the second of a three-part account by Dan about his experiences during the walk and campaign. 

The plan was for me to walk 100 miles across the five counties that make up the congressional district.   The route would run from Mooresville in Iredell County and end in Jamestown in Guilford County.  My campaign manager, Nick, would shadow me in a car while I walked.  At the end of each day, he would drive me home and we would pick up the next day wherever I had stopped the previous day.

On the first day of the walk, we started early, but it was already hot and sticky. Dale Gowan, a reporter from the Mooresville Tribune, joined me for the first mile of the walk. I told Dale I wanted to use the walk as an opportunity to meet voters where they lived and worked, and for them to get to know me.

My first stop was The Daily Grind, a breakfast nook in Mooresville. A veteran who served in Afghanistan told me he had to wait two years for VA medical benefits. We discussed how our government did not adequately take care of those who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms. Another gentleman said everyone in his neighborhood was going to vote against incumbents in Raleigh due to the toll road deal. He felt it was a corrupt bargain between politicians and the toll road company.

Walking past HEbrews Coffeehouse, I saw former State Rep. Robert Bralley, who waved us in for a visit. Robert suggested I visit Richards’ Coffee House, which is a unique hangout for veterans of every branch of service, as well as a military museum. For the next hour, I was regaled at Richard’s by funny stories and poignant tales by those who had served our country.

After a number of stops at other small businesses, I figured I better start putting in some miles. The heat and humidity had grown oppressive and I quickly realized how out of shape I was. Fortunately, before I gave out, we reached Corine’s Café just in time for a hearty lunch and much needed break.

Back on the trail, I smelled something quite foul and quickly realized the source of the odor – a dead skunk within six feet of me. When Nick posted a picture of the skunk on social media, several friends used the picture as an opportunity for humorous political commentary.

After 10 miles of walking, I was gratified to see the Troutman city limits, where we called it a day. When I got home that night, I felt something on my head, and realized I had an unwelcome guest. A tick was trying to find a home; fortunately I rooted him out before he rooted in.

We had to take an early break from the walk to film a television commercial to try to counter an unexpected challenge. Over the prior weekend, it was announced that Ted Budd, one of our fellow competitors, had received an endorsement and boost of money from a Washington special interest group, Club for Growth (reportedly at least half a million dollars). Ads for Ted would be running non-stop on television and he had already begun sending direct mailers to voters.  Our hope was that despite limited financial resources, the walk and our television ads could keep us in the game.

The night before we returned to the walk, it rained hard, so I decided to wear boots the next day. It turned out to be a great decision, protecting me from the wet grass but also providing support for my bad feet. Those boots were the footwear of choice for the remainder of the walk.

We began the next day’s walk on the outskirts of Troutman. An early and memorable stop was Randy’s BBQ. There, we ran into a table of veterans who told me they often frequented Richard’s. They had a reserved table near the kitchen with a sign over it that said “Old Farts.” They were not bashful in expressing their view about politics, but they treated me kindly and we shared a lot of laughs. I also visited with a gentleman eating with his grandson. We had a very nice chat, and he said a prayer that God would give me the strength and wisdom I would need during the walk and campaign. A group of women were there for their weekly gathering. They welcomed me and we talked about Obamacare, Trump, and any number of other political topics. After our visiting, we had a wonderful country breakfast. Nick had liver mush, but I was less adventurous and ordered the sausage and fried eggs breakfast. I would highly recommend the company and food at Randy’s.

After another day of visiting and walking, we reached the city limits of Statesville. I only walked seven miles, but with the heat and my still getting in shape, we decided to head in for the day.

That Thursday was another scorcher. In Statesville, I stopped by O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, where Store Manager Andy Reid told me he used to work with Joe Harris from Mocksville. Small world.

At a home-health business, two men who owned the business said they believed Obamacare was working well, a rare sentiment among the small business owners I encountered. We found common ground, however, in the belief that health insurance should be offered across state lines and that unnecessary and burdensome Medicaid audits and red tape make it difficult for small healthcare businesses to survive.  bike store owner expressed his frustration at trying to compete on price with internet businesses that did not pay state sales tax. He told me he had customers who would try out equipment in his store and then go on-line to buy comparable bikes cheaper due to not having to pay sales tax. An insurance owner expressed frustration about the direction of the country. He was going to support Trump because he thought he was the only one who would turn the country around.

We hit the road for some serious walking and it turned hot. The only consolation was that I was on Davie Avenue, so I knew I was headed home. Outside of town, I walked into The Butcher Shoppe, and was hit with a welcome blast of cold air. A lady working there was bundled up and she said it was too cold for her, but I lingered as long as I could, admiring their selection of meat products and appreciating the temperature. I ended the day at Cool Springs Fire Department, which was ironic because it was anything but cool.

The next day started rainy and cooler. While the rain came down, I visited with firemen and heard a variety of political views that were representative of other encounters. Once the rain let up, this became a day for a walking, with beautiful views of farms, pastures and streams.  I ran into a copperhead, but fortunately he had departed the earth before I arrived.

Keaton’s is one of my favorite restaurants anywhere. It was on our route, so Nick and I had an excuse to stop there for lunch. We ran into a group from Trailers of the East Coast, and after visiting with them, settled in for some mouth-watering chicken, slaw and sweet tea.

We had to catch up on our mileage, so I pushed myself that afternoon. It was a Friday, and I figured I could recover over the weekend. It was a good feeling when we reached the Davie County line, but we were still a long way from our intended destination. While I was not paying attention, I wandered too close to a yard, and was greeted by a ferocious dog, who approached me menacingly. Startled, I yelled back at him, which seemed to take him by surprise Ultimately we both decided to leave the scene without further hostilities.

Mark Hancock, former EMS director, joined me as I reached a cattle farm. Mark also owns cattle but when he tried to call in these cows, they were unsociable and ambled away. After putting in some more miles down Davie Academy Road, I took a break in the shade at historic St. Matthews Lutheran Church.  I certainly felt a sense of peace.

While the scenery was beautiful, it became harder and harder to appreciate as the miles dragged by. Nick encouraged me to try to reach the Mocksville Town Limits, but I was starting to feel woozy and weak. To avoid the risk of me falling out, we quit for the day when I reached the Mocksville Fire District sign. In all, I walked 16 miles that day, and 38 miles for the week. Not bad for an old man.

Part 3, Mocksville to Cooleemee and beyond.