From The American Scholar:
During his trip back to Oregon in 1963, Ken and his entourage began to think about what would become the Merry Pranksters’ bus trip to New York the following year to see the World’s Fair. The ’60s was rapidly becoming Kesey’s decade, especially once Further, the psychedelically painted 1939 International Harvester school bus bearing the Merry Pranksters, arrived in New York City in 1964. The Pranksters were a varied, fun-loving group of about 16 to 20 men and women, including Kesey, his family and friends, and their friends. Neal Cassady, the wiry, muscular inspiration for Dean Moriarty in Kerouac’s On the Road, drove the bus across the country.
Tom Wolfe would immortalize the Merry Pranksters in his 1968 book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, which sold many more copies than either of Kesey’s novels had at that time. As a result, Kesey the man would become more of a legend than Kesey the writer.
All the Pranksters had nicknames for the trip relating to what they wore (or didn’t) or to things they did. Kesey wore a red, white, and blue bandana around his head, so he was Captain Flag. Ken’s wife, Faye Kesey, became Betsy Flag. Others were named the Intrepid Traveler, Hardly Visible, Camera Man, Stark Naked, Gretchen Fetchen, Zonker, Hassler, Highly Charged, Dismount, Generally Famished (Jane Burton, a Stanford philosophy major who was always hungry), Sometimes Missing, and Brother Charlie (Ken’s brother Chuck, who ran the family cooperative creamery).
When the bus reached what they all referred to as “Madhattan,” Kesey phoned me right away.
“How was it?” I asked, not knowing what to expect.
In a classic Kesey response, he said, “Sterling, when we hit Manhattan, the city just rolled over on its back and purred.”