San Francisco, California, USA -- The job wasn't
the problem, it was where Sam had to do it.
He resented being tied to an office with only two weeks of
vacation time each year, a lumpy chair and a view of a SoMa vacant
lot complete with junkies in action. Wouldn't if be great, he
thought, if he could exchange the view for the rolling scenery of a
permanent road trip?
One silver-painted bus, satellite modem and a laptop later, he
did. Cubicle-dwellers beware -- the Cyberbuss is on the road, and
you're invited along.
If you live in San Francisco, or Baja or Gerlach, Nevada you may
have seen the Cyberbuss passing -- a retired school bus on its
second life as a silver-painted road vessel for the Cyberbuss crew,
who know a thing or two about enjoying a journey. Painted silver,
clad in pirate costumes (or angel wings or the freakiest of San
Francisco freakwear), the Cyberbuss fhREaKs are wired and ready to
bring you on the trip -- in virtual form, if
that's the only way you can make it.
Like so many oddball San Francisco happenings, the Cyberbuss was
born of lucky happenstance wedded with cockeyed wacky inspiration.
Back in 1996, Sam Frangiamore was marveling at the technology that
enabled the wired to work from anywhere in the world, when
inspiration struck. It was clear as a martini: find a bus, install
the necessary hardware and get rolling.
"I'd read enough Kesey," grinned Sam, invoking the name of the
famous road-tripper and his spiked-Koolaid-drinking Merry
Pranksters, "and I knew we needed a bus. All of us love our jobs but
we all had the frustration of being stuck between the same four
walls 50 to 52 weeks a year. We wanted more."
That's exactly what they got. Sam and buddy Jim Merry paid $5,500
for a school bus they found in a classified ad. They painted it
silver and outfitted it with sink, sofa, laptops and a satellite
modem. And the Cyberbuss was ready to roll.
As C y b e r sAM says, "We all love to travel, and the Internet
has enabled anyone to take their office and put in on the road."
Well, almost anyone. Some are tied to real-world offices and
old-school clients who prefer to see faces instead of email. Some
aren't C y b e r sAM-lucky enough to have a friend who donates an
expensive satellite modem to the Buss. And others just aren't aware
of their options.
It's the latter group the Cyberbuss wants to claim and free, says
Jim Merry, who's ridden the Buss from Vegas to Burning Man and on
many trips in between. Jim is gainfully employed as a software
engineer, but he makes it his business to escape when he can and,
like Sam, can work on the road. They have laptops to take care of
the offline work, and even though the wireless modem connection is a
painfully slow 2800 baud at a pricy buck a minute, it works anywhere
in the world. Trips on the Buss are limited only by finances -- and
"The Buss is a vehicle for going out and challenging people's
lives, to spread the news about the Internet and what it makes
possible," Merry said. "We want to have an adventure. We're not
complete. We don't know everything. The Buss is a vehicle to go out
In over two years, the Buss' headlights have illuminated highways
in the Bay Area, Mount Shasta, Death Valley, Los Angeles and scores
of other spots, all the while encouraging virtual trippers to send
email encouragement in response to the stories and photos from
Cyberbuss fhREaKs in
Excerpts from the site say it all.
"9:41 pm Baja time, all is dark except for the stars and my
laptop, and I'm on top of The Buss listening to the surf. There's
lights from the small coastal town Punta San Isidro about a half
mile down the beach, and nothing else. Even the ocean sounds a
little different down here, and I'm disoriented to just the right
degree," writes Hugh Mann.
He couldn't have written these words from a cubicle in Multimedia
Gulch, or even a corner office in some high-tech high rise. But
Mann's meanderings from some star-drenched Mexican burg could be a
siren's call for some pinched, pained, overworked Silicon Valley
type, who's as welcome as any on the Buss.
"There are no passengers on the Buss, only crew," intoned Yanick
the Volume King, who has been part of the Cyberbuss since the first
flash of inspiration. "The Buss started as a crazy idea but now it's
an energy source which draws in anyone who wants to come onboard and
become a participant."
The Buss is the nucleus that holds together a loose group of
fhREaKs, each with his or her own unique talent to contribute. You
say you can sew? Get cracking on those costumes! You're employed as
a corporate events planner? There's an upcoming trip that needs your
skills. Artists and software engineers, office managers and circus
geeks, fire-eaters and accountants; all have something to contribute
to the Buss' continually evolving vision.
"Anyone can fit in here," Sam said. "If there's something you can
do I can find a way you can do it on the Cyberbuss."
"If you can't make it down here in person you can participate
from a virtual standpoint, too," Yanick said. "We're plugged into
the virtual community so that anyone can participate, even as a
passive viewer who can't go away on a trip. It's like a serial soap
opera you can participate in on some weird level."
C y b e r sAM is frankly amazed by the way people respond to the
Buss, either online or in all its rolling, metallic glory. "They do
a double take, they stare at us for a while but then they end up
coming over and finding out from us who we are and what they're all
about," he says.
"When people hear about us and what we're doing it kind of opens
their minds," he continued. "The possibilities are endless. People
in San Francisco in the 60s tried to change the world. People of the
90s are into changing their own reality because they know the best
way to change the world is to change yourself."
So, the next time you spy the Cyberbuss ambling along underneath
your office window, why not flag it down and hitch a ride? This muse
stops for passengers.
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