French Fry-powered bus rolls in

Oh, how times have changed. In the 1960s, "You're either on the bus, or you're off the bus" was the rallying call of author Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, who traveled the country in the early 1960s in an old International Harvester bus with a refrigerator full of LSD-laced drinks, raising hell almost everywhere they went, and ushering in the Psychedelic Movement, as famously chronicled in Tom Wolfe's book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Over 40 years later, it's a rallying call just as apt for another touring bus of young people, although the message is a little different. Instead of dropping out and dropping acid, the pranksters on the "Creating a Climate for Change" bus are asking folks to pitch in and save the planet. Heck, they even have a blog.

On Thursday, May 17 (tomorrow) their 36-foot, solar and veggie oil powered bus will pull up at Blue Ridge Mountain Sports at the Barracks Road Shopping Center between 3pm and 7pm. The bus has been on the road for two years and has traveled more than 50,000 miles across the country, fueling up at local restaurants and dinning halls, and spreading the message about the importance of using alternative energies and practicing environmental ethics.

And while Kesey and his crew sought out the Hell's Angels and Timothy Leary to promote their bus tour, the veggie oil bus has corporate sponsors like Stonyfeld Farms and soy milk producer Silk. In addition, the whole venture is organized by the non-profit National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), founded in Wyoming around the time Kesey and friends were drinking their Kool-Aid.

NOLS spokesperson Jeanne O'Brien says the bus "already greased up" at Sam's Kitchen here in Charlottesville yesterday for a stop in Richmond today, so they won't be needing to raid any deep friers when they hit town tomorrow.

"We've saved thousands of dollars running on veggie oil and solar," says NOLS marketing director Bruce Palmer in a statement. "But more important, as a school that develops positive leaders and teaches environmental ethics, we have practiced what we teach and demonstrated alternative energies aren't just possible, they are practical."

Believe it or not, this isn't the first time a veggie oil powered bus has rolled through town. In fact, as the Hook reported two years ago, a trio of local pranksters rigged an old school bus to run on veggie oil and attempted to drive to Alaska. Unfortunately, the bus broke down somewhere in Missouri, but they persevered. Fitting a 1976 Mercedes-Benz with a veggie-oil system only a few weeks later, two of them finally made it all the way to the Arctic Circle.


1 comment

I coulda had a V8...