A good friend (Betty) and I rode the Grey Rabbit in the summer of 1975 after our sophomore year in college, We left from NYC having first purchased our tickets a couple of weeks beforehand in a seedy and very tiny office in Manhattan. Our tickets cost $50.00 each to get us to Colorado which was to be our first stop in this cross-country adventure. Tickets to go all the way to California were $65.00 as I recall. We showed up on a sidewalk outside of Madison Square Garden on the appointed day where others had gathered. Up until that point we were hopeful but not entirely sure that an actual bus was going to show up…such was the strangeness of the “ticket office” that didn’t seem quite real.
Soon, our bus did appear. The group of us piled onto an old bus that looked pretty great to us inside. There were two front rows of bus seats remaining but the rest had all been pulled out and the space was fitted with mattresses. With shoes off, we all staked out our spots, organized sleeping bags and other necessities and then commenced getting to know each other. I wish I could remember the names of our terrific group of fellow travelers.
I do remember there were two guys on the trip who filmed the entire experience as their plan was to make a movie of the journey. Whether they accomplished this goal, I don’t know. But somewhere out in the world, there still may be a lot of footage from this particular trip. I also remember two college age girls who had dropped out of school and who were moving to Santa Barbara where they hoped to get jobs working in a bakery with an ultimate goal of opening their own bakery.
There was another guy I remember named Jim H. He lived in Santa Rosa California and was taking the bus back home after having been in Europe. We got friendly so when Betty and I finally made it to California we met up with him again. I remember him meeting us in San Francisco on his Honda motorcycle.
I only remember having one bus driver on this trip and I can’t remember his name…great guy…. quite a bit older than the rest of us. I think he was from Missouri which is in fact where our bus broke down one day and where we were happily stranded for a couple of days as a result.
I have a great photo of all the guys on the trip standing behind the broken down bus and pushing it off the road as the driver steered it to a safer spot.
We spent our days hanging out in a nearby park each day while the bus was getting repaired and this was tremendous fun. No one cared the trip was delayed. We just continued to get to know one another, played music, had impromptu picnics where we shared food and just generally goofed around.
We were however all in desperate need of a shower at this point. The employees of the shop where the bus was being repaired let us use their water hoses to wash up. That some of the group of us stripped completely out of all their clothes I think stunned the employees although they were too polite to say anything.
I remember that I had great conversations with my fellow passengers, learned how to play different card games, shared books and food, listened to music and was amazed by all the new sights flying by outside the bus windows from places I had never been before. I couldn’t believe my luck that I was on the coolest bus ever with a great group of like-minded young adventurers.
By the time we got to Colorado, Betty and I didn’t want to leave but we had the rest of our trip planned so off we went amidst hugs and goodbyes and promises to keep in touch. We were quite literally dropped off on the side of a road in Denver. Part two of our adventure was about to commence.
I have trays of slides (remember those?) from this trip. I will have to dig them out and figure out how to send them in…they are quite a paean to early 1970s alternative cross-country traveling.
Betty and I are still friends…she lives in Oregon and I live in Boston now but whenever we do get together we almost always spend some time reminiscing about our Grey Rabbit journey. That we were two 19 year old young women in the mid-70s undertaking this particular kind of adventure (and that our parents let us go) seems remarkable to me from my much older vantage point today. We trusted that this trip would be great and safe and perfect and it was. We had dutifully read our Jack Kerouac but it wasn’t the same as having had a book like On The Road but written from a female perspective. The Cheryl Strayed’s of the world were not known to us then. This trip on the Grey Rabbit was by far one of the best life experiences I have ever had. It’s great to have this website to document and share our experiences and to remember a very special era in travel.
I rode the gray rabbit for the first Tim from NYC to SF iwas 17 in 75 I was the kid on the bus and the severs took special care of me I ended up in Eugene planting trees with drivers.
I was with my friend Eric on another ride from Eugene to NYC Eric had long red hair we both had been living in the woods for 4 months and looked it Jim was driving and pranced us at a truck stop told the waitres we were dangerous and not to give us knives and forks so we had to eat or diner with our hands and all had a great laugh
In the summer of 1975, after winding up a year of teaching pre-school, I set off to travel for the summer. Hitch-hiking out of Berkeley, I caught a lucky ride with some people headed to Denver. Unfortunately, as infrequently was the case, the people made me uncomfortable. They were a bitter bunch with nothing good to say, but a steady stream of derogatory jokes. Hours later, we stopped for gas in barren desert-country on the Nevada side of the Sierras. There was a bus fueling up. There were two empty bays where cars could be worked on by mechanics and a platform alongside the bays where a curly black-haired man was incongruously sitting in a lotus position. I did a double take when I realized it was my buddy and fellow preschool teacher, Curtis! He told me he was on his way to New York to meet his mother for a trip to Russia. He was onboard “The Grey Rabbit Bus” that catered to hippies and made weekly cross-country trips. It had rock music piped throughout the bus, and instead of seats there was one huge foam mattress. People sat with their backs against one side or the other forming a long row of alternating legs down the center. I approached the pony-tailed driver with Curtis and asked if he could take me to Casper, Wyoming. He gave his beard a tug, made a mental calculation, and asked for ten dollars. I grabbed my stuff and got on the bus. Grey Rabbit was the “anti-Greyhound.” At one point we all piled out naked to take a refreshing dip in a lake, causing a few fishermen in scattered boats to fumble for their binoculars. Casper came much too quickly, but Curtis and I wished each other well until we’d meet again in a preschool classroom.