Photo of the new bus courtesy of the Kickstarter page
In 1964, Ken Kesey—intrepid psychedelic traveler and author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest—piled into a multicolored school bus with his friends and a bunch of drugs and drove from La Honda, California, to New York City for the premiere of Kesey's new novel. The gaggle of proto-hippies traveling with Kesey were dubbed the "Merry Pranksters," and their goal was to freak the fuck out of Middle America and document the whole thing for a feature-length film.
The movie they wanted to make never quite came to fruition, but the trip, and the Pranksters' subsequent LSD antics, were cemented in history in Tom Wolfe's 1968 book, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the iconic Prankster adventure, and Kesey's son, Zane, is looking to raise $27,500 to take the Pranksters' psychedelic trip all over again. The original 1939 Harvester bus—named "Furthur"—is currently rusting in a swamp behind the Kesey Farm in Oregon, but Zane has a new one, and it's even more decked-out than the original. If you want to get on the bus, you can donate $200 or more to be considered for the trip. And if you were off the bus in the first place, as Kesey once said, then it won't make a damn.
If the Kickstarter hits its goal the new bus with its new Pranksters will be swinging through America later this summer. I called up Zane to learn a little more about the trip.
VICE: Hey, Zane. How long has the Kickstarter campaign been going on?
Zane Kesey: Like three weeks. We're around halfway to our goal and have a week left.
Do you already know who will be onboard?
There have been 20 or 30 applications sent in. If you donate $200, we'll give you a bunch of cool Prankster stuff—but you also get to apply to ride on the trip with us, be part of the movie that we’re making, and become a Merry Prankster. Even if we don’t choose you, we'll still send you a Merry Prankster laminate. It will get you on the bus whenever we go parading through your town.
I know you haven't planned the whole journey out yet, but are any stops lined up?
We're going cross-country and hitting a few really good festivals along the way. Lockn' Festival in Virginia is a big one. Furthur, the Grateful Dead side project that is named after the bus, is playing.
We’ll be at their only concert this year, at the final Allman Brothers concert, and then at Phases of the Moon Festival in Illinois. Then we'll head to this art festival called Great North up in Maine, which has the best artists from across the country. We’re hoping they will paint on the bus.
This isn't the first Furthur bus, right? This is Furthur 2.0.
It’s not the 1939, no. This one is from 1947. My dad had it for a long time. He actually put way more miles on this one than he did on the original one… even took it to England and Ireland.
A lot of the toys on the bus—like the short-wave radio broadcaster—are either going to be fixed or upgraded. We want it to have WiFi so we can be working on the blog and posting pictures and videos from the road.
The original Furthur bus
What can people do to maximize their chances of making it onto the bus?
If you’re good at being a character or if you have equipment and want to come film, you’re going to rise to the top of the people we need. We also need people taking pictures for the blog and updating the website and blowing bubbles for the kids. All that stuff is really important.
Will riders be chosen for the whole stretch?
People will mostly be chosen for weeklong legs of the trip. So far there are only two or three of us who are essential. Derek Stevens is the tour manager. He is the one who talked me into this. I thought it was impossible, but after about a year of discussing it, he made it sound like it could really be fun.
Your dad’s original trip became a huge part of the story of the 60s. Will this new adventure be about preserving the legacy, or will it be a whole new chapter?
There are two different things that we’re after: One is we want to create a movie of us out there—having fun in the moment. We’re also trying to remind people of that innocent seed that started the 60s. The Pranksters weren’t out there trying to end the war or change the world; they were trying to have fun and go across the country just doing their thing.
In the 60s, everything was all so new and so fresh that it couldn’t be ignored. Now they don’t mind ignoring us at all. The hippie movement has fractured. People look at us now like we’re these dirty, confrontational people who just want to argue about government and taxes and the environment. That’s not necessarily where the movement started.
We need to get some of that innocence and fun and approachability back. Once we do that, we can reclaim some of the power that the 60s had.
The Furthur 50th anniversary Kickstarter ends on May 28. Donate here and hit the $200 mark for a chance to get on the bus.
Follow River Donaghey on Twitter.