Inside Reddit’s Internet 2012 Bus

Former McCain/Palin 'Straight Talk Express' converted for tour

Now a reality, the Internet 2012 tour was born two months ago during an off-hand conversation on a walk to the subway between Reddit general manager Erik Martin and site co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Initially, it was as simple as a desire to take a bus across the country, but for Ohanian, who has amassed somewhat of a cult following as a result of his advocacy during the battle against SOPA/PIPA online piracy legislation, half-brained ideas can quickly become a reality. Like the Internet 2012 bus tour, which will travel well over 2,000 miles from Denver, Colo. to Danville, Ky. 

Like almost any endeavor Ohanian and Reddit throw their weight behind, the tour has a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek element to its execution. Ohanian and Martin don't take their Internet freedom issues lightly, but that doesn't mean they can't have some fun along the way. Nowhere is that more evident than in the bus itself.

"Like most startups, we have no idea what we're doing and we have never done something like this before," Martin said of the trip's planning and execution. But don't be fooled, when it comes to drumming up publicity, Martin and company know how to get folks involved (thanks in part to Reddit and Ohanian's leadership, 25,000 blogs blacked out their content during the Jan. 18 protests and over 12,500 sites added banners opposing SOPA/PIPA legislation). One of the first necessary steps was to find a bus. As if through some cosmic stroke of luck, Martin was able to secure John McCain's storied "Straight Talk Express," which McCain and then-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin used to traverse the country throughout the 2008 campaign. "I take the fact that we have this bus as a good omen," Martin told me before we embarked.

As you can see from the video below, the bus has undergone quite a facelift.

Unlike the "Straight Talk," the Internet 2012 bus has no political allegiances and is split down the middle, one half red and the other blue, and emblazoned with a ubiquitous WiFi signal logo and the unmistakable "Internet 2012" across every exterior surface. Martin and Ohanian raised money for the effort from Internet-friendly sponsors like Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and sites like the online magazine This Is Why I'm Broke.

For a final touch, the former campaign bus is flanked at all times by an escort from the Rally Fighter—a crowdsourced, American-made off-road racer built by Local Motors out of Arizona. "This car is powered by the Internet and it's things like this that are making new business models possible, even in established industries like manufacturing," Martin said of the escort vehicle. "It very much embodies what this trip is all about."

Of course, instead of explaining it all explicit detail, we'll just show you the lavish confines of this World Wide Web on wheels.