So far, $15,000 has been raised toward the $300,000 or more it will take to return the 1939 International Harvester school bus, now a rusty hulk after being pulled out of an Oregon swamp, to the brightly colored psychedelic patterns that covered it back in 1964 and turned it into an iconic symbol of the hippie era, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday.
"We'd like to create a rolling exhibit and take the restored bus around the nation or loan it out to universities and educate people about Ken Kesey's life, his art and his work," said Jason Johnson, a software company executive and 1960s scholar who is executive director of the Furthur Down the Road Foundation.
Kesey had gained fame for his novel "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" when he decided to journey from Northern California to the World's Fair in New York with a band of friends, educating people along the way about the then-legal hallucinogenic LSD.
The trip also was timed to the publication of Kesey's second book, "Sometimes a Great Notion."
He initially intended to use a station wagon but his band of friends, dubbed the Merry Pranksters, grew to 14 so he got the bus instead and they set about painting it with wild designs in brilliant colors.
The rollicking road trip became the subject Tom Wolfe's 1968 best-seller "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test."
"Being psychedelic characters, we were taking LSD, and LSD opens your mind to other things," Ken Babbs, 78, one of the Pranksters who now lives outside Eugene, Ore., told the Chronicle. "LSD goes into areas where you've never been before, and you're using all that new-found consciousness with all those psychedelic colors."
Another Prankster, George Walker, 74, now of Scappoose, Ore., said the bus drew a wide range of reactions from people.
"For the little kids, it was like the circus coming to town," Walker said. "When we hit New York, we drove around the city, and the traffic was slow. We looked like the pied piper, with maybe 100 kids running along behind us. Adults were perplexed by it. Kids got it."
After the trip, the bus wound up in the swamp on Kesey's farm. Kesey died in 2001 and it wasn't until about four years later his son Zane, 52, pulled it out with a tractor.
The younger Kesey remembers painting on the bus as a child.
"Painting it [those colors] made all the sense in the world. Didn't seem silly to me," he said.