EPPING — Wearing an oversized backpack with the Golden Arches on the back and long red- and white-striped socks, Dwight Barnes is getting some looks from passersby as he begins his 1,000-mile walk around New England.
“Are you the McDonald’s guy?” asked one curious driver who called himself “Big Phil” and encountered Barnes as he made his way to New Hampshire.
Barnes began his walk Monday in Boston and walked more than 60 miles by Wednesday, when he received a warm welcome as he arrived at the McDonald’s restaurant in Epping he owned until retiring a few years ago.
Barnes, 65, of Deerfield, is on a 56-day walk called “Join the Journey Home” to raise money for Ronald McDonald House Charities. He plans to visit all Ronald McDonald House locations in New England and will stop at dozens of McDonald’s restaurants along the way.
He said he’s raised $70,000 so far.
His first New Hampshire stop was at the McDonald’s in Salem, followed by a visit to the Epping location, where he was greeted by friends, family and employees who once worked for him when he was the owner/operator.
“At the end of each day I’m a little tuckered out, but after a good night’s sleep I’m ready to go,” said Barnes, who expects to average about 18 miles a day on his journey and spend most nights in hotels and motels.
While his wife has some safety concerns about the walk, she described Barnes as a community-oriented person and wasn’t one bit surprised when he told her he wanted to take a 1,000-mile hike.
“When he gets an idea in his head he just goes with it,” she said.
His parents were among those who swung by the Epping McDonald’s to greet him and wish him well.
“I think what Dwight is doing is terrific. It’s a damn good thing he takes after his mother,” joked his 89-year-old father, John “Jack” Barnes Jr., a Raymond selectman and former state senator who was also in the McDonald’s business for many years.
For more information on the walk or to donate, visit bit.ly/31kuN1D.