What if the Datsun had started?...

Here you can discuss anything related to Christopher McCandless.
SteveSalmon
Posts: 293
Joined: Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:42 am

What if the Datsun had started?...

Postby SteveSalmon » Fri Apr 22, 2011 5:54 pm

~SS
Last edited by SteveSalmon on Thu May 03, 2012 7:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

GoNorth
Posts: 258
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 3:47 pm

Re: What if the Datsun had started?...

Postby GoNorth » Fri Apr 22, 2011 6:50 pm

Thanks a lot for bringing up this question as well. Seeing the movie, one could think that he wanted to get rid of the car, which was not the case at all - at least not at that point of the journey -, as he wrote in his journal how hard he tried to get the car going again before finally leaving it there.

First thoughts:
Would he have burned the money he still had at the time? With the car, he depended on fuel and thus on money.
Or had he planned to leave the car somewhere sometimes later anyway?
Probably his initial plans were completely different. Did he have the intention to make all the way to Alaska by car? If so, would this have been earlier than almost 2 years after his departure?

AND: With the car, it would have been much easier for his family to track him down. Does that mean that initially he didn't have the intention to "disappear" without a trace? Maybe he saw the damaged car as some kind of sign and only decided certain things about his journey at that time?
Of course, we will never ever know, however I think it is an important question when judging Chris's trip. Because at first sight, you might come to the conclusion that this guy just left everything to go on an adventure of several years without contacting anyone at any time - which is how the story went in the end, but very likely more as a succession of coincidences and occasions than as a concrete plan.

Very right as well, that he wouldn't have met Jan or Wayne and Ron...

And for the plates and the tarp:
He probably just hoped that the car wouldn't be found too soon.

SteveSalmon
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Joined: Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:42 am

Re: What if the Datsun had started?...

Postby SteveSalmon » Fri Apr 22, 2011 7:46 pm

~SS
Last edited by SteveSalmon on Thu May 03, 2012 7:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

pezar
Posts: 153
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 3:41 pm

Re: What if the Datsun had started?...

Postby pezar » Sat Apr 23, 2011 7:40 pm

It's hard to say for certain. However, as somebody who has seriously considered the cost of rubber tramping, with fuel (especially at $4 a gallon nowadays!) and oil changes and other assorted maintenance on the vehicle, I find it hard to believe that Chris intended to tramp in the old Datsun, because he gave away $24,000 in his savings. I'm thinking he intended to eventually drive to Alaska and ditch the car, or park it somewhere, then live in the woods, or possibly live out of the car while in Alaska. He had driven to Fairbanks once before, remember? It's possible that Chris decided as a spur of the moment thing, when the Datsun wouldn't start, to ride his thumb instead.

I find it hard to NOT believe that the flash flood wasn't intended by whatever deity you might want to believe in to force Chris to let other people into his life and heart. In fact, there are so many "coincidences" in this whole story that I tend to see some sort of Unseen Hand guiding things, beating Chris over the head with the moral of the tale "happiness is not real unless shared" and when he went to Alaska and moved into the Bus that "it" had had enough and let him die as punishment for his foolishness.

He hadn't seen that he wasn't meant to die in the Alaska taiga, so "it" basically threw up it's hands and said fine buddy, if this is what you want then have at it. He finally realized that he really DIDN'T want to die, but by then the Hand had withdrawn and left him to his own devices. Then it came back and let the body be discovered so Walt and Billie would have a grave to visit.

I find it ironic that Tracy, for example, was SO in love with him, and he didn't seem to care. Jan Burres was sort of flippant about Tracy, but Tracy continued writing to him even though she didn't get a response, so I think it was more than just puppy love. He didn't seem to want connections to anybody, and the Unseen Hand is beating him over the head here, saying "see, you have a lover, all you have to do is say yes. You have people who care about you, all you have to do is open your heart!" He realized it, but too late.

pezar
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Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 3:41 pm

Re: What if the Datsun had started?...

Postby pezar » Sat Apr 23, 2011 7:43 pm

SteveSalmon wrote:Great points as usual GoNorth.
Was the abandonment of the Datsun and the ticket using his Virginia address some sort of bread crumb trail?


If he hadn't removed the Virginia plates, the car would have been easy to trace.

GoNorth
Posts: 258
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 3:47 pm

Re: What if the Datsun had started?...

Postby GoNorth » Sat Apr 23, 2011 9:07 pm

pezar wrote: I'm thinking he intended to eventually drive to Alaska and ditch the car, or park it somewhere, then live in the woods, or possibly live out of the car while in Alaska. He had driven to Fairbanks once before, remember? It's possible that Chris decided as a spur of the moment thing, when the Datsun wouldn't start, to ride his thumb instead.


Yes, that's approximately what I imagined as well.

pezar wrote:
I find it ironic that Tracy, for example, was SO in love with him, and he didn't seem to care. Jan Burres was sort of flippant about Tracy, but Tracy continued writing to him even though she didn't get a response, so I think it was more than just puppy love. He didn't seem to want connections to anybody,


No, I couldn't come to that conclusion. I mean, he DID want connections to people like Wayne (and his girlfriend and friends) or Jan (and her boyfriend) or even Ron. He stayed in contact with them and wrote to them - even quite regularly to Wayne and to Jan. To me it seems evident that he really cared. Remember the postcard he sent to Jan in December 1991: "I am so glad to find you both alive and sound. Thanks so much for the Christmas card. It's nice to be thought of this time of year. ... I'm so excited to hear that you will be coming to see me, you're welcome anytime. It's really great to think that after almost a year and a half we shall be meeting again."
Does that sound like a person who doesn't want connections to anybody? I don't think so.
For Tracy, I mean, he was just not interested in her. Jan once said that he didn't take her seriously and found her too young, so that's just bad luck. Obviously, she simply wasn't his type. I mean, you can't force anyone to fall in love with another person. So I don't see anything ironic here. It's just the way life goes. If Chris had survived, he would probably have met a girl of his taste sooner or later. After all, he had said to Wayne that he wanted to found a family one day.

pezar wrote:If he hadn't removed the Virginia plates, the car would have been easy to trace.


Exactly.
However I still don't understand why he buried the plates and unburied them again later.

By the way, have you guys ever noticed another coincidence?
The number plate of his beloved Datsun was: ...421
The number of the magic bus was 142 (same numbers in different order ;) )

bobenns
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Joined: Thu Sep 30, 2010 6:21 am

Re: What if the Datsun had started?...

Postby bobenns » Thu Apr 28, 2011 6:08 am

What if? I think that was my favorite saying as a kid. I used to drive people nuts with the what ifs.

We can't really know what different outcomes there might be "if" Chris had done something different at any time. I think the possibilities are infinite, but here 's one anyway.

If he hadn't abandoned the Datsun when he did, he never would have met Wayne. He wouldn't have been in the Dakotas and learned about smoking game. He might have driven to Alaska. He never would not have been at the right time and place to cross paths with Wayne.

After the flash flood the Datsun was soaked, probably the interior was wet too. After it dried out it still ran, but that morning it was soaked and wouldn't start. I also think his walking away from it was an early signal of his disorder, if he had one.

So keeping the car for a while longer would have set him on a very different course than the one he took. He probably still would have arrived in Alaska at about the same time and set off on a very similar journey into the wild. I'm curious about how he came to decide on that exact point of departure into the wild.

I think the big difference would have been he would have asked a different person about preserving game and might have learned what he needed he needed to know. Of course if the Datsun had started he might have missed the moose! Or maybe he'd get two moose? We'll never know.

Anyway, here's what my dad told me about the "What Ifs".

He told me this story, its a good one to tell kids.
One day an old King got tired of hearing the word "if". There were too many possibilities and he was going crazy with all the if possibilities. He decided to get rid of the word "if". He ordered his men to dig a big hole in the ground and when it was deep enough he stood at the edge and shouted "IF" into the hole. As soon as he shouted it his men began to shovel the dirt back in the hole, covering it up. When all the dirt was back in the hole one of the men looked at the King and said, "What if it comes out again."
There is no greater scripture than nature, for nature is life itself.

GoNorth
Posts: 258
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 3:47 pm

Re: What if the Datsun had started?...

Postby GoNorth » Thu Apr 28, 2011 6:24 am

You're very right about the "what if"s. You could almost speculate about each moment of everyone's life like that.
Like for Chris: What if he had been at certain places only a day later? He wouldn't have met Wayne, or Jan, or Ron - but some other people instead.
And yeah right for the moose as well. What if he had been able to preserve the meat? He probably would have had enough food to survive longer and the hunters would have found him alive in September.

However, the question regarding the Datsun is more interesting for the reason I wrote above. The loss of the car might have changed the basic idea of his trip.

bobenns
Posts: 121
Joined: Thu Sep 30, 2010 6:21 am

Re: What if the Datsun had started?...

Postby bobenns » Fri Apr 29, 2011 8:24 am

The movie suggests that he burned his money when he left the car behind. But he worked on several occasions to make money after that. He didn't head up to Alaska that first year on the road either. He seems to have developed the Alaska plan over a longer time.

Back in the 60s and 70s there were so many people on the road every summer, hitch hiking, driving vans was big. It was the hippy era and it was so cool to go on the road. People ended up living on the beach or in communes and in the inner city hippy enclaves. There was this big urge to go on the road and go out west. I recall seeing literally hundreds of hitch hikers on the roadside outside of large centers. During the peak a lot of cities had buses go around and pick everyone up who hadn't got a ride in the evening. They would take them to some place to crash and give them a meal etc. There were so many out there that would otherwise be sleeping at the side of the road or getting into stuff somewhere. How many McCandless' were there then that we have never heard of? The McCandless story is really about a late bloomer or throwback to that era.
There is no greater scripture than nature, for nature is life itself.

GoNorth
Posts: 258
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 3:47 pm

Re: What if the Datsun had started?...

Postby GoNorth » Fri Apr 29, 2011 10:52 am

bobenns wrote:The movie suggests that he burned his money when he left the car behind.


Not only the movie. Chris also wrote this into his journal.
Of course he earned money after that, but I suppose that was a different thing for him. The "old" money was probably money he had never worked for.

So when he left his car there with the dead battery (which he had drained himself after the flood), he decided to get rid of quite a few other old things as well, at the same time. That's what Krakauer suggests as well in the book. However I'm not sure whether it's only Krakauer's own opinion or something Chris wrote down himself as well.

bobenns wrote: He seems to have developed the Alaska plan over a longer time.


Definitely. As far as I remember, that's the only thing he had planned (and told people about it) already in advance.
I just wonder whether he had intended to drive up north much earlier than he finally did.

bobenns wrote:How many McCandless' were there then that we have never heard of? The McCandless story is really about a late bloomer or throwback to that era.


Very good point. Of course, not every hitch-hiker stays on the road for years and not every person living on the road ends up in the wilderness of Alaska, so Chris's story was still a quite special one. But I totally agree that there must be or have been many other interesting life stories out there - different from McCandless's, but not less special - that hardly anyone ever hears of.


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