By James Raia
Thirteen years after it became the world’s most infamous used school bus, the one-time refuge for workers and a wayward young man is no longer parked in the Alaskan wilderness.
The dilapidated 1946 school bus was the living and dying quarters of Christopher McCandless, the main character in Jon Krakauer’s nonfiction book “Into the Wild” and the 2007 movie of the same name.
The bus was airlifted by helicopter from the wilderness by the Alaska Army National Guard as part of a training mission. According to reports, a suitcase with sentimental value to the McCandless family was also saved.
The film detailed McCandless’ life struggles and his subsequent refuge in Alaska during the last few months of his life. McCandless died on Aug. 18, 1992. His body was discovered about three weeks later.
McCandless donated his life savings to charity and hitchhiked to Alaska. He died of starvation, his short life ending in futility. The bus, once used as shelter by road workers in the remote area, became a symbol of curiosity seekers, including RV travelers who had read the book or watched the movie.
“We encourage people to enjoy Alaska’s wild areas safely, and we understand the hold this bus has had on the popular imagination,” Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige said. “However, this is an abandoned and deteriorating vehicle that was requiring dangerous and costly rescue efforts.”
Some would-be visitors needed rescuing; one woman from Belarus died in her attempt to reach the bus.
McCandless mother left the suitcase filled with survival gear, with visitors adding to it and taking from it over the years. The bus will be stored at a secure site until a decision is made about its future.
James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and electronic newsletter. Sign-ups are available on his website, www.theweeklydriver.com. He can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.