Magic Trip: Ken Kesey's Search for a Kool Place
Flush with funds from the success of his debut novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey, then 29, drew up plans in 1963 to drive a bus across the US to the World's Fair in New York. In June 1964, an exotically painted 1939 Harvester school bus rolled out of his ranch in La Honda, California. This was to be no ordinary journey. Kesey's Beat Generation associate Neal Cassady – the inspiration for Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's On the Road – was driving the bus they called Further. On board were half a dozen travellers who called themselves the Merry Pranksters and a jar of orange juice laced with LSD. The trip, immortalised in Tom Wolfe's book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, would become the mythologised starting point of the psychedelic 60s.
"The trip had a dual purpose," said Wolfe. "One was to turn America on to this particular form of enlightenment, the other was to publicise [Kesey's] new book, Sometimes A Great Notion. Kesey was a great writer. It was too bad he abandoned writing but I think he meant it when he said, 'I'm tired of waiting for an echo, I want to be a lightning rod'."