HOLDEN — Third time’s the charm for a socially conscious, Columbia hiking boot-wearing journeyman who is collecting hand-written messages in a journal that he plans to hand over to the next governor.
For three weeks daily beginning July 4, BJ Hill, 41, of Holden will be walking an average of 12.5 miles a day (with two days off for a wedding), passing through 20 Massachusetts communities, collecting handwritten messages from people he meets.
“One of the benefits of walking is that I can just walk up to people who are on the sidewalk or outdoors and I can talk to them that way. That’s one of the good things about doing this on foot,” Mr. Hill said. “If I was driving, for example, I would have to stop the car or pull a U-ey (U-turn) or something.”
Mr. Hill, who just finished his first year teaching ELL at Burncoat Elementary School in Worcester, is asking people to meet him along the way to write their personal message for the governor.
They can write anything they want, Mr. Hill said.
“I’m nonpartisan,” Mr. Hill insisted. “I’m not pushing for any cause or issue. I try to stay as neutral as I can while doing this.”
Equipped with a tent, sleeping bag, a few pairs of clean underwear, T-shirts and a raincoat in a backpack sporting a sign promoting his website, www.walkacrossmass.com, Mr. Hill plans to start at the New York/ Massachusetts border, Route 2 in North Adams, and finish July 26 in Provincetown. His schedule calls for him to follow Route 9 from Ware to West Brookfield on July 11 and West Brookfield to Leicester on July 12; from Worcester to Grafton on Route 122 on July 16; and from Grafton to Mendon on Route 140 on July 17.
“Folks can contact me, come out and meet me, walk with me, write their message as I come through their town, come through Central Mass., come through Worcester,” Mr. Hill said.
In addition to meeting people on the street during his travels, Mr. Hill will also arrange meetings to collect messages at a specific at a place such as a public library or a senior center.
“Sometimes people have driven by and have stopped or driven by and pulled a U-ey and said, ‘Hey, I saw your sign. What’s this all about?’ And I also carry business cards with me to so people can check out the website and know that I’m legit.”
After introducing himself to strangers, Mr. Hill will explain to them how he’s walking across the commonwealth to collect messages to be given to the governor after Election Day.
“My name is BJ Hill. I’m a teacher from Worcester. I’m walking across Massachusetts to collect people messages for the next governor,” Mr. Hill said. “Do you have a minute to write down something you think the governor should know? Anything that you think is important to you or to your family?”
In March 2015, Mr. Hill gave Gov. Charles D. Baker Jr. a journal filled with handwritten messages he gathered during a three-week walk from Williamstown to Provincetown during the fall of 2014.
In 2006, Mr. Hill walked across the state and handed a similar book to then-Gov. Deval Patrick.
“It opens up a line a communication between everyday folks and our elected leaders,” Mr. Hill said. “Once the governor gets into the corner office, he becomes so busy that it’s harder for him to really meet and listen to and understand what’s happening on Main Street, or just in Boston, but in towns like Whately and Charlemont or East Brookfield, for example.”