I accidentally came across this blog today. Was looking for images of alternative buses and Googled “Gray rabbit bus images” and immediately recognized the two drivers shown in the image that popped up. I think it must have been around August or September 1978 that I took the bus from Berkely to New Jersey on my way to my first trip ever to Europe. I remember showing up to the meeting point, seeing that bus with foam mattresses instead of seats, and all the other interesting looking passengers. I remember the introductory talk by one of the drivers, how it was ok to drink and smoke weed on the bus but strictly forbidden to smoke cigarettes. And I remember clearly today the explanation why smoking weed was ok but cigarettes not, something about the foam mattresses being rather flammable and how everyone runs away from a falling lit cigarette, but everyone dives to catch a falling lit joint. I think this talk set the tone for our journey.
I remember waking up during the night one night, somewhere in the plains region mid-country. Far in front of us was a thunderstorm and every few minutes a huge bolt of lightning would light up the sky, extending from the clouds all the way down to the earth. This went on and on. I remember the driver just leaning over the steering wheel with a camera taking pictures.
We stopped at truck stops to buy food to eat, and then would take a picnic outside. I remember walking into the diner at one of these stops to use the toilet, and overhearing a conversation between two truck drivers. One of them asked the other where he best could park his rig, and the other answered him that he could just as well drive it into that yellow hippy bus parked outside.
We stopped once or twice for some skinny dipping, and that was quite fun. Just about all the passengers on the bus were cool with that.
It was otherwise quite a calm ride. A nice one, an interesting one. I met a girl on the trip, also from New Jersey. I think her name was Barbara. She dressed in a hippie-like fashion, with a t-shirt (sleeveless, I believe) and a skirt that reached from her waist all the way to the ground. I was quite attracted to her but she seemed to take a liking to another passenger, a guy from Germany. They talked a lot and seemed to get on quite well. We happened to be sitting together on the bus, with her in the middle. I remember that during one night, perhaps it was the second night, I woke up and realized they were starting to get cozy with each other, and it seemed she was enjoying it. I wasn’t so comfortable with this but what could I do, I couldn’t just leave the room, so I tried to ignore it. But after some minutes she turned to me and asked me to switch places with her so she could put a stop to whatever was happening. After that we became sort of friends and I even saw her a few times after the trip when I was on the East Coast.
Good memories … it is like more than half a life time ago. Thanks for making this blog!
Hey Steven this is James. I was the driver that gave ‘the rap’ about smoking. Glad you’re enjoying the the blog.
My name is Coleen and I rode the Rabbit back in 1978 from New York to Utah. It was my big adventure leaving New Jersey to work and go to school in Arizona. Probably the only long ride I never wanted to end. I have to dig through my archives and come up with a picture I know i still have somewhere. The greatest memories of picnics at wonderful stops and meeting and virtually living with strangers who became a road fraternity. The following year I took another line from NYC to San Francisco- the green tortoise, also a wonderful yet hazy memory. This adventure was with a college buddy who later became my husband and then just a friend- good times. I remember stopping at a great hot springs place i think it was called the garden of eden, in TN and Big Bend National Park. I work at Bard College at Simon’s Rock Early College now and was just chatting with some wide eyed students about these rides the other day. I can’t believe nobody has written a book about these trips, they were awesome. I got the idea to google them today, so glad others started this blog. Inspires me to get out the old journals and relive the days a bit.
Karen Van der Vort
My son will bring up a trip or two that we took back in the ’70’s and I can’t remember exactly the years. But one of the memories we both had was stopping at the infamous hobo pool in Wyoming. I knew Cookie well as I lived in Santa Rosa and when I needed a ride cross country we, my son, Noah and myself paid our way. It was the best.So I had a nickname, Hobie, and my son, Noah. I remember the fun, but there was a another young woman who played guitar on the trip who knew all the words to Bob Dylan’s songs. She was amazing. Looking back on those years were some of best. Making friends with complete strangers, sleeping with them and all the beautiful moments on those trips. Thank you all.
Yep…I’m another one of those Grey Rabbit passengers from the later 70’s, 1978 I think. What a ride and what a tale.
It started with the ad in one of the San Francisco underground papers. I called in and they directed me to a head shop on Haight. I was going to Colorado, so it was about $40 and I had to prepay. They said to call in the next day for the location and time to go. I did. They sent me to Berkeley at 7:00AM on some street corner, slightly off the beaten path.
Gathering were about 35 or 40 colorful forms of life ready to go. They loaded us in like the slaves in Roots on a ship. We got going, swaying back and forth like a plane from Matamorus on the way to DF in the 60’s with a drunken pilot.
Somewhere in Nevada or Utah, we stopped. One crazy skinny blond hippie chick went crazy, walking out in the country. She wouldn’t come back. On we went. I got dropped off about 10 miles from my place. All was right with the world. I hope that girl survived.
There’s a lot more to the story between the lines.
1978 — Summer
My wife Mary Jan & I ran the Seattle Ride Center and I drove most of the Seattle-Oakland and return trips with a variety of drivers but mostly with Larry Wenk, a most congenial partner. He’d do all the city driving, we’d roughly split the open road driving, and I’d do most of the narration & interaction with the passengers.
On one late summer trip, Mary Jan and I had pulled an all-nighter postering and fielding calls and cleaning out the bus, and spent the morning hustling to get a larger than average cadre of passengers collected in the parking lot of a Taco Time (back then, unspeakably awful “Mexican” food and worse coffee) on Capitol Hill. Lester was very late with the bus, off doing something. I was having a hard time staying awake, so I drank two big beer-stein sized mugs of terrible coffee (>30 oz.).
When we finally got everybody loaded and oriented, checked-in and filled with stories, Larry drove and after about five minutes the sonorous thrumm of the Detroit Diesel made me really sleepy, so I crawled to the way-back into the elevated reserve driver’s bunk and fell into a deep sleep. That compartment was right over the engine, so it was like the Magic Fingers attachment on a cheap motel bed, but you didn’t have to feed it quarters.
I woke up about 90 minutes later with an electrifying, actually painful bladder urgency. I ambled to the front and told Larry I needed to get a rest stop and soon. He told me we were about 20 miles from the actual Interstate rest stop, but I knew I couldn’t make it that far. It took us about two miles to find a pull-over with woods. He opened the door lever and I trotted about 10 yards to the forest and 5 yards into the bushes. I knew I was going to be there a while but suddenly I felt a slithering up my pant leg and then another. I looked down and there were a couple of dozen hornets in a cloud around my feet. I got bitten, but the pain was less than my need to finish the job, then a group of bits…too much. I turned, tried to zip my pants, swat my legs and make like Usian Bolt simultaneously.
I burst out of the woods at a goodly pace and yodeled to Larry from about 10 yards to close the door. I shot through and he slammed it shut and there were a couple dozen pinging noises as the hornets chasing me hit the door.
Turns out there are hornets that build underground nests. Larry knew all about ’em, he has been running a landscaping crew for a couple of years and knew they were a common occurrence. He recognized my syncopated dance before he even saw them, knew exactly what to do.
The rest of the trip was pretty ordinary, except when we finally got to that rest stop, we had a touch football game and Larry’s team kept flooding my zone because he knew my ankles were sore from the hornet bites and I wasn’t fully mobile. Only fair, I suppose — I would have been toast without his cool thinking and quick reactions.