On the Bus: Outriders at Ken Kesey’s Farm, with Ken Babbs

The Facts: “Youre either on the bus or off the bus.”

The Artifacts: Two psychedelic school busses.


Ken Babbs & I leaning on the grille of the originalFurther, which was pulled out of the swamp and dragged back into civilization against its will!

Skypilot Ken Babbs kindly escorted Scottish author Jenni Fagan and me and our driver Eric Miller to author Ken Kesey’s farm, which was once a communal dwelling place for many folks. Now it is occupied by Kesey’s niece Kate Smith, who is getting things organized. The old cook house is occupied by someone else, and there is a little pool of water lilies between the two buildings. A garden is in the process of being planted, and beef cattle graze in the field. Kesey himself is buried out back.

The barn is occupied by two similar converted school buses, the original bus called Further, with its colors fading to a kind of natural but still psychedelic camouflage, and a newer one with bright colors. The original Further was a converted 1939 International Harvester school bus purchased by author Ken Kesey  in 1964 to carry his Merry Pranksters cross-country, filming their adventures as they went along. Their adventures have been presented in a burlesque form by Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.   The new bus was created in 1990 by Kesey using a 1947 Harvester.

Below is an excerpt from Wikipedia about the second bus.

“In 1990 Kesey created a second Further/Furthur, this one from a 1947 International Harvester bus. The second bus is labeled Further on the front and Furthur on the back. It is not called Further 2, and is not meant as a replica, although confusion between the two buses is intentional. The bus was created to coincide with the publication of Kesey’s memoirs about the 1964 trip, entitled The Further Inquiry (ISBN 0670831743).[6][7][8]
In November 2005 the original 1964 Further was dragged out of the swamp with a tractor and now resides in a warehouse at Kesey’s farm in Oregon, alongside the 1990 Further.”  (for more info check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Further_(bus) )

Here are a few more tidbits about the bus from the ‘pedia:

Smithsonian prank
The “Great Smithsonian Prank” was a prank perpetrated on the media. The local TV station came to the farm where Kesey and friends were painting the new bus and later aired “Ken Kesey has restored the original Further and is taking it to the Smithsonian.” The next morning, a variety of national media were asking to “come along on the trip to the Smithsonian.” The media rode along on Further for about a week thinking it was the original bus and that it was going to be donated to the museum.
Apple party
In 1993, Kesey drove the second bus to California to speak at a private party hosted by Apple Computer. The producers who had invited him apparently had no knowledge of his history or politics, and once he started making drug references they removed him from the stage. They then wouldn’t let him get the bus out of the parking lot, forcing him to hang around the event until it ended.
The 1990 Further bus toured the country as part of a “Further 50th Anniversary Trip” in early 2014.Most media accounts at the time did not distinguish between the original Further bus and the restored 1990 bus.

The mysterious Jenni Fagan: In case you wonder what Jenni Fagan is up to, though she has chosen to not be featured in the photo collage, she rode a 9-N Ford Tractor, swung on a big swing across a field of rye grass, and also held up the severed head of her enemy and grinned.

Below see the old bus as it was resting the the swamp before retrieval.

Furthur: The Bus Then & Now image

Below see an old photo of the bus in action in 1960s.

Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters roll into town on their psychedelic ride, ‘Further’, during the Great Bus Race in Aspen Meadows, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Summer Solstice, June 21, 1969. Photo by Lisa Law

Basic info about Ken Kesey: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Kesey

Info about the Merry Pranksters https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merry_Pranksters

Basic info about Ken Babbs (out of date): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Babbs

Follow the Intrepid Traveler’s Blog: http://www.skypilotclub.com/


For more info about the Outrider project, which has paired up Scottish and American writers to travel the New World, created by the Edinburgh Book Festival https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/outriders

also follow Jenni Fagan’s “born again hellfire twenty-first century beat poetry”* blog https://thedeadqueenofbohemia.wordpress.com/

Also, follow us on FB and Twitter



@edbookfest  #outriders

*the quote is from Nick Barley of the Edinburgh Book Festival


About bonniejocampbell

I'm the author of ONCE UPON A RIVER, AMERICAN SALVAGE, MOTHERS TELL YOUR DAUGHTERS, Q ROAD, WOMEN & OTHER ANIMALS. I love Michigan, donkeys, black walnuts, blackcap raspberries, Flannery O'Connor.
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