The life and death, highs and lows of the 142 bus abandoned on the Alaskan Stampede Trail

by Michael Rowlands

  A happy little helicopter rescuing his beaten friend the bus. The tear jerking climax of yet another Pixar film that breaks all our hearts and makes us change forever how we treat automobiles and other transportation vehicles in our everyday life? Sadly not, but I’ll start on the script for that. 

(Note to self – Set up pitch with Pixar for Gus Bus & Helen Helicopter: The Musical)

  In a year that is still snowballing down a hill of madness, trapping inside it everything from fascists to killer hornets, another potential threat to ‘our’ lives was extinguished, an abandoned bus in Alaska. The national guard went in, and as though it was a small immigrant, chained it up and flew it into the clouds. Truly a magical bus, flying through the air, even with a heavy conscience that it must carry, the ghosts of its victims going along for the ride. 

  The magic bus, or Fairbanks City Transit System Bus #142 as it is known to its close friends, was an abandoned bus that was originally used for workers of the nearby mine (why miners were living in abandoned buses provided to them as accommodation needs its own spin off film in the style of Dickens, also portrayed with Muppets I hope). When the mine shut down, I’ll say because of Thatcher somehow, they left one bus behind due to how fucked it was. Bus #142. 

  The bus was then used throughout the years by hunters, hikers, and probably the occasional magic orgy. Then one day, Christopher McCandless waltzed on over, and ruined the simple little life of the simple little bus. Christopher McCandless, also known as Alexander Supertramp, a self given title.

  He left behind his boring life, his family and his upcoming Harvard education to travel around the States; and we’ve all come to learn as audiences of western cinema just how important Havard is. It’s on these travels that he decides to create a hierarchy within tramping; he couldn’t unburdone himself of all his privileged ideologies; it seems that he has a need to create a class structure. With no experience of knowledge of ‘tramping’, he knights himself Supertramp in true fashion of some rich white dude, and in doing so, raises himself above the other, lesser, tramps. Just as Orwell travelled Paris and London as a tramp, they both wandered with the comfort of a safety net below, woven with the thread of a golden fleece. Hiding the diamonds on the soles of their walking shoes. 

So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. 

– Christopher McCandless aka Alexander Supertramp, a man whose net worth was esteemed to be around $5,000,000

  As well as sleeping with the comfort of an egyption cotton bed, hot butler served meal and nepotistic  job prospects waiting for them if they became too bored or tired, they also carried with them in their poor empty pockets an education granted to the elite. Maybe what makes him the Supertramp, and what separates him from all those lower tramps, is the education that allows him to easily find employment on the road. So after burning his money, down the road he went to take a job and start earning back the ashes left on the ground. 

  After tramping around super style, Chris set his sights on getting into the wild of Alaska, super style. He was warned by a local that dropped him off at the edge of nowhere, that he was leaving too early in the season, that he was ill prepared, and that there would be nothing growing, but he ignored the advice. Feeding his ego with his own hubris but not his stomach, Chris discovered the Magic Bus, which would become his home and eventually his grave over the span of 113 days. 

 113 days surviving in the wild can be viewed as a great accomplishment, especially for someone with no experience, before perishing due to starvation. But once you account for the 40 days you can survive without food, the massive weight loss from not eating much during the days with food, plus the food he took with him, it would seem he didn’t manage to scavenge much from the land. Though on day 43 a moose crossed his path, maybe he was looking to hot box the bus and chill to some Grateful Dead. We will sadly never know, as Chris shot the moose and killed its vibes. But the challenge of transporting and preserving the meat was too great for the novice hunter/butcher/refrigerator. The meat and life of the moose was wasted, the first victim of his arrogant stupidity. RIP Moose. Another meal of rice for one. 

When you consider McCandless from my perspective, you quickly see that what he did wasn’t even particularly daring, just stupid, tragic, and inconsiderate. First off, he spent very little time learning how to actually live in the wild. He arrived at the Stampede Trail without even a map of the area. If he [had] had a good map he could have walked out of his predicament.

– Alaskan Park Ranger Peter Christian

  Chris then dies 113 days into his solitude, the cause of death being the ignorance for the challenge adopted. But also he just died from starvation. And the magic bus magically transformed this boy and his death into a counter-culture messiah. The ambiguity of his time in the bus, the creation of a grand mystery, has helped create the Cult of the Supertramp. Online forums speculate about the meanings behind his actions, the reasoning behind his trip, but also, as every great cult needs, a conspiracy. The idea that he didn’t die of starvation, but rather he was poisoned. The idea among his followers is that he consumed a plant that causes starvation, paralysis and eventual death. But still, he died from his own inexperience due to gobbling some forbidden fruit like a naughty child in Wonka’s factory? Well, the conspiracy then becomes wilder( add quotation for the joke of “into the wild”) to maintain the pedestal of their hero. They believe that the botany book in which he uses to decipher between what he can eat, is incorrect. 

The film plays with this further, by altering a sentence in the actual book Chris used. In a scene where Chris realises he mistook one plant for another, the book tells him that the plant is inedible, that it will cause paralysis, starvation and eventual death. This is a lie. This edit to he real life book was to manipulate audiences into believing he has died from a deadly plant, rather than just starvation. More dramatic and Shakespearean than just being an ill-informed, unprepared, wannabe adventurer. 

  So the book, rather than Chris, must be wrong is the belief of many of his followers. A disciple ventured to the site of the magic bus, and collected the same plants that had ‘killed’ Chris, for further scientific investigation. As for the results, the scientist that examined the plant found that the book was correct, they were no threat, even stating he would eat them himself. A solid scientific answer to prove that the plant had no correlation with his death. But like many conspiracy followers, they don’t want the truth, they want an answer to prove them right. People have went even further, looking into old nazi experiments (of course nazis somehow get involved in every conspiracy), to try and find evidence that the plant is/or was/or can be/but must be/ please has to be/ deadly to humans somehow. The Science v Tramps case continues. 

  As with all religions, sacred sites and pilgrimages are as mandatory as the underground pedophilia, and this one follows suit (wihout the pedophila as far we know, some models buses may have been polished).So, since the glorification of his death, from books and films, people have wanted to go visit the site, pay their respects, steal a little part of the bus as a free souvenir. The new batch of Supertramps are then met with the same difficult terrain and environment that was warned to their God, and eventually killed him. This is the opening of the prequel film for Helen Helicopter, that must rescue these Unsupertramps, with the help of locals that for some unknown reason don’t enjoy having to constantly wake up the helicopter, for yet another rescue mission. I feel like they must have the same views as the sherpas of Mount Everest: tired of seeing untrained morons playing adventurers so that they can snap n’ grab pictures for instagram of them discovering who they are: twats. Some even followed the full to fruition, and sacrificed their life for the bus, the journey and the great decided Supertramp.

One local wanted to burn the bus down, to sacrifice it for their own sake. Larry the local in a real life philosophical trolly problem. Does he pull the handle to save the tramps, but sacrifice the rusty bus? Or does he save the now legendary bus and watch these naive cultists walk towards death every couple of months. But before he could pull the handle and throw the molotov at the bus, the government executed a daring rescue mission. Get that bus back home boys. The bus is now locked in a secure location, probably getting waterboarded with engine oil for a secret on how to kill more hippies with magic.  

  Just like the current pandemic, it seems people need to be protected from their own ignorance, stupidity, and lack of trust in science. The whole mythology of the bus can be perfectly summed up and explained by dissecting its name.  The Magic Bus, on the surface, happy, light, whimsical, the sacred resting place of a great man who abandoned the rat race to pursue freedom. But beneath the glittering surface that Hollywood and followers want to believe in, hides the truth; whether it’s wanted or not. Fairbanks City Transit System Bus #142. Not quite as imaginative, but accurate . The home of death, of hopeful ‘free’ followers, of a poor old miner once upon a time. It wasn’t magic, but it was at one time a bus.

 Finally, when the bus is most likely put on display for a small fee, the information will show off the myth that was the Supertramp, the man that lost his life on that bus. But probably not the names of the many people that predated, especially  those that lived. 

RIP Fairbanks City Transit System Bus #142, soon to be hailed the symbolic cross of the hippies, at which they can kneel with their filthy feet at the foot of filthy lies.