Ain't It Cool
Web Guide
Boing Boing
Luke Ford


From the suburbs of San Francisco to the Burning Man Festival, from the Death Valley to the depths of cyberspace... La Spirale picks up the trail of the CyberBuss fhREaks. This tribe of digitally connected californian nomads truck around the West Coast of America organising parties and impromptu happenings. British travellers and californian technomads, computer networks and teleworking: the basic ingredients for a new form of nomadism, perhaps ? We certainly hope so...





Could you tell us about the history of the CyberBuss ?

The CyberBuss was conceived all in one divine moment. Five of us were so close and high energy; we searching for the next steps in our lives. I knew we needed a constructive project or mission. We were all globetrotters who were living life very fully. We only had one complaint and that was that many of us were tied to jobs that gave us very little time to travel. We got exposed to Burning Man in April 1996 and in one very fateful night decided we must go. My Swiss friend Captn' Carnival Kurt exclaimed that we needed to get geared up in an RV. I knew better.

We needed to go in a Bus, a cyber buss. 1996 was a time when the Internet was so fresh and exciting and anything seemed possible. I was a Web designer just looking for a non-business subject to write a site about. Another friend was getting into satellite telephones and made me aware of the possibility of connecting to the Internet from anywhere on earth.

Well, all these things seem to come together like a beam of light. Hey, if you can work from home, why the hell can't you work from the Grand Canyon. The main goal: to create a mobile unit enable to take an office environment anywhere we wanted to be (so we could take our work with us while travelling, rather than leave work for spurts at a time and come back broke and start all over when the money runs out). Well the idea mushroomed.

Another guy said he would paint da buss, another to take all the pictures and document the experience, another to cook....etc. We thought of a mobile company full of code/road warriors. Then a month later we bought a school bus, painted it silver and things have never been the same.

Could you introduce us to the members of CyberBuss tribe ?

There are really too many to name at this point. I named a few below and said a bit about each. I tried to name people of all walks-of-life involved. Other fhREaKs just to name a few all would be happy to talk to you:

***CYBERBUSS Founding fathers out there:
who is this jim merry (jim@merryhaus.net) da mysterious one

Anton da nomad (anomad24@hotmail.com)
English bike tour guide in France for summer
our prime photographer

Yanick the volume king (volume.king@cyberbuss.com) -
currently living in Antibe, France for next two years
our think big guy

***Current Key Players in San Francisco:
Sgt. Sauce
our public relations - front lines person
one who can still communicate with inquirers

Roby Wan
junk sculpturer, electronica sound-sampler, drummer and performance artist

Sir Loin
auctioneer, MC - energy blazer

Joanne (Australian)
planner coordinator, voice of reason

Digital Dan
digital mentor, musician, video tricks

***VirTuaL fhREaKs:
Kwas (New Jersey)
virtual traveller - with us in spirit

Gametone (new York)
another transcontinental collaborator

Spackle (northern California - never even met in person - only virtual correspondence)

yoshi (japan)
japanese journalist

What fuelled the desire to take to the road ?

The agony of being in the same 4 walls 50 out of 52 weeks a year. The agony of commuting. the agony of knowing there are so many amazing places to explore and no time or money to explore them.

What is it that sets the Cyberbuss tribe apart from any of the other bands of freaks touring, travelling and partying in different corners of the world ?

Well, for one we don't make any money. We are actually a money losing organization (too bad the IRS only has categories for profit and non-profit groups). We are not even official performers with any choreographed or rehearsed performances. Everything is spontaneous, experimental gigs. We just really create atmosphere, gather ingredients and stir things up. Things happen and people fhREaK ouT - go wild. We are really just a self-sufficient mobile-unit. One that doesn't go to shows or festivals to be entertained (like the previous rock era). We prefer to create our own reality wherever possible and do our own thing whether it be create/record music, march like a marching band, build giant junk sculptures, crash/infiltrate other gigs, host guerrilla roller derbys, host CoStuMe BaLLs, do live Web casts or set up a lemonade stand.

How do the members of your tribe live their lives ?

Most of us have normal 9 to five jobs just like everyone else - many with high-tech companies. We just do this for fun. It's an escape from the over-commercialized world we live in. People always ask us what we are selling or if we are getting paid. Some, like me, take all different kinds of jobs from Web work to unloading trucks. I greatly prefer to work from project to project and make my own schedule. We have one girl on the bus whose job is writing horoscopes for a web site. Wherever we are she usually stows away for an hour or two and writes her daily horoscopes and finds a line and dials them in.

Most of us are not trying to get rich or famous, we are just having fun. More fun than we could ever imagine. We live off the scraps as much as possible. We love to make things from trash (especially for the annual CyBeRbUsS cOSTuMe BaLL). We value time over money. We work less, have more time. We live very cheap and simple. We have beat up cars, wear old goofy clothes, drink malt liquor and eat a lot of pizza and burritos.

Is it true that some of you work out of the bus and live permanently on the road ?

Yes some of us do work from the buss at times, but few of us live permanently on the road. I generally spend about 2-3 months on the buss each year. Its enough.

Do you feel that teleworking is becoming an accepted part of everyday life in North America ?

Yes, it just makes sense, especially here where so many jobs are on the computer and phone.

Do you think that this will spread and become standard practice in the future ?

Yes, it is only inevitable. It certainly is becoming accepted. When people find my work site and call my office number, they are just contacting a company. How can they know that I am just a guy in a garage or in a school Buss?

Tell us about the computer hardware and telecommunications equipment aboard the Cyberbuss. What kind of connection do you use ?

We keep it as simple as possible. We borrow/share stuff all the time:

- one or two laptops
- one satellite telephone or a wireless ricochet modem (while in the urban areas)
- 100ft phone line
- two digital cameras
- sometimes a web cam

That part is simple. The sophisticated part is the 10 golf cart battery bank all wired together with an inverter/charger. The batteries are charged from the alternator, from solar panels or they can be hooked up to an AC power source if needed.

We have also had on board:

- a radio transmitter to broadcast a radio station
- a GPS (global positioning System)
- a CB
- a sound system/PA for electronica, marching maniacs or full blown bands
- an electric razor for hair sculptures
- full kitchen utilities

Financially and technically speaking, is this a viable option for everyone ?

As far as the $$ feasibility goes. After you own a laptop and have renewable electricity everything is free except for satellite phone connection time (about a buck per minute at a very slow connection speed) and Internet Service fees. It's free to take as many pictures as you like and post them online if you have the space and the connection. So if you keep the satellite phone calls to a minimum (just to check email and update web sites when you have absolutely no other option) you can do things for next to nothing.

We actually don't own a satellite phone, we have a friend who sells them so we have been demo-ing the same one for 4 years (you can always rent own). But you only need a sat phone when you are way out there without a phone line fer miles. It is often cheaper than renting an office. Gas is the main expense.

How far afield have your travels taken you ? Has the Cyberbuss crossed the North American frontier yet ?

We have been up and down the west coast from Oregon to the tip of Baja Mexico. There is so much to see on the west coast alone. Next year we are planning a big North West Coast tour around the Seattle Art Car Fest. We will venture as far north as Canada and into Montana.

We will someday cross the US. But we still have much more to explore out here. The West Coast is a great place to explore.

Are you in regular contact with other tribes of technoid nomads, either in the States or elsewhere in the world ? I was thinking in particular of the Muto´d Waste Company, I've lost track of them for a while now...

I have just been introduced to the mutoid waste company, but we are not in contact with them. They seem very interesting to me. We do have close friends who have been on the buss from all over the world in touch with us and traveling with us virtually. i have visited many in Europe and Brazil. San Francisco really attracts people from all over.

We also have hundreds of virtual friends all over the world that we have never met but are in contact with us regularly. They find us online. Some we have even partied with virtually during the Wrybread Honey Pot Web Cast Sessions (you can see and hear archives of our shows at (http://www.wrybread.com/cam). We had a live show every Thursday where people could hear us via streaming MP3's, see us via Web cam posting, and chat wid us. Some even got their own Web cams up so we are able to see and communicate with them too. They would watch us do stupid things and we would watch them. Was like partying with others in C Y B E R S P A C E.

I read on your website that you take part in the Burning Man Festival every year. What are the other unmissable events and gatherings for freaks worldwide ? Where are we likely to run into you in the coming months ?

Our big gigs every year have been:
Burning Man
Art Car Fests

We also have participated in several Parades, Fairs, Film Festivals, Guerrilla Art Events in SF.

Most of the rest of the time we are out exploring new desolate places, camping in the desert, searching out hot springs, lakes, rivers, mountains and coastal cliffs. Most of us are just perpetual campers.

Also many of us have done carnivals in Bahia, Brazil and believe it or not Carnival in Luzern, Switzerland has had a big impact on us.

How does one go about joining your tribe ?

There is no official membership. Just a loose bunch of fhREaKs. People who have interest just find us and git on da buss. The best way to dial in CYBERBUSS data is to git on our email list. We send out announcements and fhREaKy stuff from time to time.

What has been the most beautiful experience so far on the road ?

Egads. There have been so many. If I got to mention just one I would have to say that there was never a trip like our first trip to Death Valley in 1997. The first time is always the richest experience (just like the first trip to Burning Man). We had 14 people on two different busses. We had a super tight crew, where everyone seemed to be in sync. It was like leaving civilization altogether in two spaceships. We got all dressed up in cyber gear and were in contact with the other buss via CB. We even had one marriage proposal over the CB. Sometimes we attacked each other with fruit and squirt guns, other times we set up elaborate prizes (cocktail bar, etc.) in the middle of nowhere for each other to discover. We had the drive thru, where one buss prepares lunch/snacks and the other buss drives up and orders/picks up food. We spent our thanksgiving eating a grand meal under an open desert sky with ski goggles, drums and fire. We climbed sand dunes and built sand boards out of wood panelling. Everything was perfect. We were for the first time 100% self-sufficient - off of society's grid entirely. Really out in the middle of nowhere.

On the way back home, one person joked that we should go to Mexico instead of returning. We decided to have a vote. If it was unanimous we would go. We got 13 yes's and one no. We almost never came back to reality. Since then we have been back to Death Valley twice and to the tip of Baja, Mexico, but we have never had such a perfect experience. Funny thing my camera disappeared and i found it on the buss when we got home. We got almost no footage at all. Just like a dream now when I think if it.

Don't miss CyberBuss.com where you'll be able to meet all the fhREaKs tribe…

and don't forget to check the Burning Man Festival website