EBay 'Hippie Vacation' Auction Spawns Cult Following

Oct. 4, 2005 — -- Michelle Land was not so thrilled when her brother-in-law, Cody, pulled up to her Arkansas home in his "huge hippie van" a few weeks back and set up camp in her backyard.

Cody, who is 24 and had been living in the van in California, is, as Michelle says, "a little touched in the head."

During his short stay in Arkansas, Cody lost a job at the local Butterball factory, was arrested for a number of misdemeanor violations and was spotted by neighbors running around the property naked.

"He just does stupid stuff," said 29-year-old Michelle, who also worried Cody might not be the best influence on her three young children. "He thinks he can do anything. He talks kind of crazy."

Michelle and her husband, Sam (Cody's brother), figured it was about time for Cody to be hitting the road. As avid eBay sellers, Michelle and Sam came up with an original scheme to get Cody out of their hair -- market a cross-country trip with him as the "Ultimate Hippie Vacation" and sell it to the highest bidder.

On their auction page, the Lands enticed a broad spectrum of potential buyers:

Old Hippies -- Relive the Good Ol' Days!

New Hippies -- Experience the USA Like You Never Have Before!

Crazy People -- Hang Out With One of Your Own Kind!

There were, however, a few caveats for the trip, including having to sell T-shirts for gas and food money. In return, Cody was promising "the most craziest vacation you will never forget."

The Highest Bidder

Some strange items have sold on eBay. A 10-year-old grilled-cheese sandwich bearing the likeness of the Virgin Mary was sold to a casino for $28,000. Some entrepreneurial types have even auctioned off body parts for use as advertising space.

But here was an intangible experience up for sale -- the value dependent upon the adventurous spirit of the buyer. Though Cody often hits some snags on the road -- vehicle breakdowns and brushes with law enforcement among them -- he also has met many interesting people and had countless "unbelievable" experiences, say the Lands.

The bidding began Sept. 9 and ended 10 days and 129 bids later. B.K. Haynes, a 71-year-old land broker and author from Front Royal, Va., submitted the winning bid of $6,100.

"I thought I was buying the van," said Haynes. "I didn't realize I was buying the trip."

But Haynes was up for the adventure. Haynes published a thriller in the 1970s called "The idealEstate man" about a respectable citizen who blows up a casino, goes underground and meets up with a "band of misguided idealists ... who wage a campaign of violence against the establishment."

"I have experience with the hippie movement," Haynes said. "I get along with hippies OK."

For his part, Cody says, "I can pretty much get along with anyone."

Sam isn't so sure. "I think this guy [Haynes] is gonna go storming off the bus," he said.

Cody Cult Following Develops

During the auction, word of the "Ultimate Hippie Vacation" spread, and the Lands' eBay page received more than 240,000 hits. After the auction was over, their mailbox continued to fill up with inquiries about Cody's next move.

Besides the 129 bidders, many other people asked if they could tag along on the ride or be put on a "waiting list," because they didn't have the money to win the auction.

"I was really shocked that anyone would pay to ride around in a bus with him," Michelle said.

But the Cody phenomenon has grown, and Sam and Michelle have set up a Web site complete with chat rooms and updates about Cody's adventures called www.leaderguy.com.

There is even a documentary in the works to capture Cody and Haynes' journey. Brent Meeske, a documentary filmmaker who chronicled The Grateful Dead's last tour in the film "The End of the Road" is planning a documentary based on the Ultimate Hippie Vacation.

The vacation is set to begin Oct. 9; Cody and Haynes will not meet until that day. The $6,100 will pay for the trip and Cody's many tickets and court fees.

This trip is set to last only a week, but thanks to the Internet, Cody may have hit on a career of sorts.

It seems there are many people -- some as far away as England -- willing to pay to ride around in a refurbished van with no destination and no plan. And there are plenty more buying Cody-related merchandise such as T-shirts and wallpaper.

But Cody says his brush with fame hasn't changed him. "I think I'm still the same person," he said.

As for his future plans? "I'm spontaneous," he said. "I don't really know what's going to happen."

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