About dspost13

I'm a film editor working for warner Brothers Studios. Drove the Grey (Gray) rabbit in the 70's.

The Gray Rabbit

This is a quick overview.
The contributions are broken down by year listed below.

Please feel free to send in anything, I’ll be happy to post it. Occasionally people have asked to used pieces from this blog for other articles and documentaries. At first I contacted the contributor and asked for permission. This is becoming burdensome, if you don’t want what you send repurposed, please tell me and I won’t post it. Anything on this site is free for anyone to use- if you posted earlier and are uncomfortable with someone using your material please write me and I’ll pull it down. Any suggestions as to content, style, or format would be appreciated.

There’s a very informative article on ‘the grey rabbit’ to be found on Wikipedia. We spelt it both ways back in the day. When it went legal right toward the end it was listed only as ‘grey’.

James

James Spach and Richard Cook Washington Square 1976

James Spach and Richard Cook
Washington Square 1976

This blog is a place to assemble memories and try to contact other people involved as drivers or passengers on the gray rabbit. I was a driver on various buses from 1975 to 1978. I drove with Lester, Peter, Richard (Cookie), Jody, Miles – everybody that was involved at that time. Joe and Rene ran the ride center in Berkeley- Shep the ride center in New York. I found the warehouse Lester bought to garage the busses down in Hunter’s Point.  The buses in the picture below belonged to Lester, Peter and Richard.

Interior of Hunter's point warehouse- busses belonged to Richard, Lester and Peter

 

My name is James Spach- but back then people called me ‘JD’ or ‘Spock’ – the proper pronunciation of my name.

James waking up

James waking up

A couple of thoughts about this post.  I don’t want this blog to be about me or my memories and experiences, but everyone’s. It would be great to find peoples’ posts from the same trip. Also please leave your full name and perhaps the time period – if you can remember- that you either rode on or drove the bus. As you can see, I’m just putting up disjointed memories to start things rolling. If you have a quibble about the veracity of a post remember that it was 30 or more years ago and we were all living in some state of befuddlement in those days.

A very great girl w/ a dragon tatoo Nevada
A very great girl w/ a dragon tattoo (really)  crossing Nevada

If you have pictures or longer comments that you want to send I can be reached at dspost@sbcglobal.net Please don’t send anything that you don’t want reused in a larger project. I’m new to this, so apologies in advance for any mistakes I make.

I’ve been asked a lot of questions about what I’ve been up to for the last 37 years. You can look me up on LinkedIn. I’m still working as a film editor at Warner Brothers

. I may live on until I long for this time in which I am so unhappy and remember it fondly -From the Japanese translated by Kenneth Rexroth

Scan 

On hearing Richard Cook had died-

Last I saw Richard was in 1977 at his place just outside of Santa Rosa. We were friends for a long time but had a falling out over a stolen Volvo. I didn’t drive for Richard, I drove with him on Lester Rall’s buses. We went to his place in Maine a couple of times before it burned down- met his pig ‘Hamsteak’ On our first cross-country trip from SF to NYC we dropped all the passengers and decided to light out for Maine- we had a major breakdown and ended up sitting in the South Bronx -right across from Yankee Stadium- for 2 days until we could get parts. Limped back home and Peerless Oakland rebuilt the engine. We had some amazing adventures. About 8months after our first trip Richard used the insurance money from the loss of his house to buy his own bus- he brought a few friends down from Maine and they moved into the warehouse in Hunter’s Point. Richard and Reeny (?) stayed in a studio apartment on the GG park panhandle, and we also kept one or two buses parked up there. One of his friends, Peter Frantz, bought his own bus and we made many trips together. After Richard’s bus was torched in Jamaica Bay. He and I made one last trip together in Peter’s bus. One of our passengers lost it and we had to pull him stark naked out of a freezing river in Miami, OK. When the split happened between Richard and Lester I drove for both the guys from Maine, excepting Richard, as well as Jody, John Durham, Miles and sometimes w/ Lester – most of the time w/ Peter. I never owned a bus outright, but loaned Peter $3000 to rebuild his. He paid me back and I used that and the money I’d earned driving to move to Europe and go to grad school. Peter Frantz is the CEO of Maine Entertainment. John Durham is working as a trucker in Portland.

I’ve added snippets from songs we played while traveling. Always in italics.

James and Peter
James and Peter

Lately it occurres to me 
What a long, strange trip it’s been.
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1983

Marc Daquila 

I drove the Grey Rabbit for the four years while attending chiropractic school in portland OR (79-83). Every friday afternoon a driver would come down from seattle and a group of 20 or so people would be gathered around the ride center chick (my gf meg) who put posters up around town and took calls. We’d all hop on, wave goodbye to meg and pick up more folks in Eugene. Soon we’ld stop for a soak in a huge hot springs in the national forest and arrive in Bezerkly then SF at the haight before noon. The return trip included a swim in shasta lake getting me to ptld before, usually, my first class. This run was a natural follow on from the early days where Lester, a very cool but sometimes misunderstood fellow started it all by bringing the east coasters out west to begin with in school buses and later retired LA diesel 4-speed coaches. There was also “another grey rabbit” and the green tortoise, still operating (legitimately) today. If stopped we were just a bunch of friends camping, although I did spend a night in jail in Eugene once. There were so many experiences we all had in those days that I can only recount a few. For thanksgiving we has 2 buses going south to san fran and mine (my favorite mission trails) conked out and we had to put all 87 people and all their luggage in Don’s bus for the final 4 hours. I ended up succeeding in bleeding the air out of the fuel line and ended up passing Don’s bus an hour from the finish line. Imagine an empty bus with all the curtains flapping in the wind with an open door cruising by in the pleasantly hot california sun. Don decided to just get there and not put our folks through any more roadside attractions. Another time Iwoke up (in the drivers bunk) in eastern OR, after driving most of the night on a x-country run. When I returned from the truck stop facilities the bus was gone heading east without me ( it was assumed that I was still crashed). I had to get a fast ride to overtake the bus and hopped on after flagging them down. This was all done without cell phones. Imagine making dropoffs at 15 different places and arranging to meet 2 weeks later without cell phones. I’m sure there are storiesof forgotten passengers but none of ours were nor were there any injuries. A good time was definitely had by all.

Julie Dolan

Rode the Grey Rabbit back from the West Coast to NYC late July 1983. Heading home after a backpacking trip up in the Canadian Rockies. A lively group of Rajneeshpurum folks were on the bus. I remember a young girl, Ayesha. She must be around 40 now.
We stopped at a hot springs and what I thought was called Voodyroos State Park, but can’t seem to find it on google. Great way to travel across the country. I’m sending a photo:

grey rabbit 1983

Mark Fisette 

I drove for Green Tortoise 1982-1985 “Cowboy” was my nick name great times, loved those days…..

1982

Grey Rabbit 7

Kevin

My name is Kevin Jennings from Fairfield, CT. I had just gotten discharged from the Navy in Hawaii and had to fly back to CT to bury my Dad in November 1981. By early January 1982, I had about $130 left to get back to Hawaii. The Grey Rabbit would at least get me to my Aunt’s house in LA for $90. About 10 of us were picked up next to Madison Square Garden on an overcast and frigid afternoon. The mattresses and floor boards were lifted up to stow our bags under and then replaced. We settled in for a 3 day trip across America. The front of the bus had 2 rows of seats, then mattresses all the way to the back where a pair of bunk beds made an aisle to the private crew’s quarters at the back. I landed just forward of the bunk beds and made friends with the folks within earshot. There were no music boxes, so some weed and a guitar set the mood and the highway sounds lulled us to sleep. I made an acquaintance with a lovely girl named something from somewhere. There was just enough privacy to get to know each other well. There was a dog wearing a bandana whose best friend in the world was anyone eating. Dog’s owner was one of the friendly drivers. The driver sported a beard 35 years ago back when the last time beards were in. The driver also had his lovely wife and an adorable girl named something who could somehow move up and down the bus without stepping on anyone, a skill that the dog did not have.

I have no recollection of the 2nd day but I’m sure it happened, probably more weed and guitar. I do remember stopping in a rest stop for dinner and I somehow found a shower, then another night’s sleep as America slipped under the magic bus. I have to say that being able to lie down is the only way to travel. Sitting for hours and hours is not comfortable and given the choice I still go horizontal.

We stopped in St. Louis and picked up a few more passengers including a beautiful and very friendly girl from Haiti. The other passenger I remember was a guy that could juggle. Anytime we stopped, he would start juggling which is always a crowd pleaser. I remember after one stop we were some miles up the remembered that the little girl was left behind. A U-turn and a joyful reunion and we back on the road. We hit some deep snow over the Rockies and stopped to help a car that had run off the road.

Our last stop before LA was in Barstow, CA just after sunset, where we loaded up on bottles of liquor to augment our weed to sustain us through the dangerous desert crossing. Our desert crossing was a little different from the group of Oakies in the movie “The Grapes of Wrath”. Grandma didn’t die and our agricultural products were not inspected. We did however have a fine party culminating in none of your business. Me and another passenger were dropped off in LA and the Grey Rabbit continued north to San Francisco and out of my life.

I’ll never forget that trip. Good people of all ages and from all walks of life treating each other with respect and friendship, sharing food, drink, weed and stories across a beautiful country. I doubt the Grey Rabbit could operate today, however myself and thousands of others are grateful that it did for so many years. Thank you to all of the people that made that singular experience possible.

Grey Rabbit 9 Grey Rabbit 8 Grey Rabbit 6

Steve

I took the grey rabbit (although the “t” was missing) from SF to Buffalo via Seattle in August 1982. We went via Seattle to pick up 14 kids from a Haarlem theatre group with their teacher (who was ill with cancer) and the love family who were involved with looking after them. The crew were Bob, Don and Doc. The trip was the best single trip I have made (and I’ve cycled from London to China). It finished with Doc being arrested in Ohio with the bus being surrounded by a dozen armed police and the kids singing love songs.

If you know the story behind Doc’s arrest I would love to hear it. If you would like to hear more about my trip I can send you details along with one or two photos

 

1981

RJH  

Mardi Gras 1981, 7 Rabbit (Cookie and Carla, not you Lester) and Tortoise buses behind the Brewery in Jackson Square circle-parked wagon train style, speakers blaring, dancing and partying into the morning listening to Jim Carroll “All the People Who Died, died, they were all my friends, no wonder they died.”
I woke up passed out on the tracks, nitrous burns on one hand and a bottle of Tangueray in the other. Perfect candidate to get rolled, but my karma was in the black and I lived to sip and sup another cafe au lait and beignet.

Todd 

I drove the Grey Rabbit back in 1981-82. Cookie showed me how to drive the bus one morning in Iowa, heading into the big red sun coming up over the steamy cornfields. Love you Cookie! That was the beginning of my Big Adventure in Life, which is still going on even though I have respectable jobs now. Yes, drivers drove 12 hour shifts. The drivers’s bunk got lots of action. Besides teaching me to drive large motor vehicles, Cookie also showed me how to pick up girls.
The whole thing came to an end in New York City. Cookie and Lester were both using the Grey Rabbit name, but Lester had a secret weapon. At the pickup point by Penn Station our bus was mobbed by beautiful, young and very angry German girls wearing purple pajamas – disciples of the Baghwan – and Lester! you dont know what a cult is about until you’ve had to face the hippy furies.
I am so glad to read you are well, or at least were back in 2007, Cook. Take care and God bless, hope our paths will cross one more time…

Keith 

Caught grey rabbit SFO to seattle 1981,remember Yukon jack bourbon,Paul Masson wine n hit springs in Oregon.most travelers were heading to rainbow peace festival in Washington state.stayed with Kathy in Seattle,an employee of the grey rabbit company,great memories !

Jerry Liebrandt

Rode the rabbit from SF to NYC in the summer of 81′.The guys from Maine were running the trip. We made an unplanned visit to the grand canyon for two days. I was living on a communal farm in Mendocino at the time. I was traveling with an orange cat in a cage, bringing it back east for my sister.

1980

Margita Persson

Hi! I was traveling with the Grey rabbit bus 1980 from New york to Los Angeles. I had came from Sweden, traveling alone ,only 19 ears old. John Lennon was recently shot. I´m glad i found this page! I have some photos, and i often think about this big trip i did in your country. A lot of things happen along this journey. I remember that one girl had her dog run over and we had to take it in the luggage, and we forgot one passenger at a rest stop and had to go back and pick her up. She sat under a palm tree waiting for us. And we pick´t up hitchhikers along the way too. They had guitars and played for us. I remember a lot of things! Do you want to see the pictures and hear more?

Yes! -James

Kevin Kovarik 
I took the Grey Rabbit in 1980 from NY to SF although I had a ticket to Seatle. I met the bus it was parked across the street from the George Washington Bridge bus terminal. There were 2 drivers one guy had a blonde hair and beard and was a school teacher that wasn’t teaching at the time. The other driver had brown shoulder lenght hair and a mustache and I do remember something about him being a carpenter.We couldn’t leave NY right away because we took a vote to wait for some late passengers , a couple and their dog , they might of had children. The drivers after takin attendance said they would pay for the wine and we would pay for our food nd we went across the stret to an Italian restaurant to kill time until the late passengers arrived. well they never made it and off we went.The bus was a Blue and white 1956 GMC diesel with a goofey lookin running rabbit on both sides. The inside was converted like a camper , diner type boothes that turned into beds , an open communal area with matresses and cushions in the back and 2 bench type seats on both sides by the driver. There were some very memorable things that happened. The drivers decided that we would take a more southerly route because it was November to avoid any chance of hitting snow.One thing that happened was in Tennessee (Memphis I think) we stopped in the State University to use the gymnasium showers apparently this was done before. Well I was the first one back to the bus only to find there were security with the dean and other faculty by the bus watching me come forward. I drawing on the little bit of the Czeck language that I knew told them I didn’t speak english.The drivers came out with the rest of the 18 passengers and told the Dean e were a bunch of students traveling across country and we were in need of showers. The Dean seemed delighted that we stopped there and told us to come back.Later on in the trip after picking up this hitch hiker in New Mexico Who left his successful life (wife and kids) to live in the mountains of New Mexico we went to Zion National Park in Southern Utah. We got there in the nightime and we woke up inside this beautiful natural ampnitheater at sunrise. Some of us then went on to climb one of the most beautiful rock formations Angels Landing 8735 feet high. In California we got pulled over by California HWY Patrol. We and the driver was feeling no pain and the Blonde bearded driver was sleepin , The 2 drivers switched places and the cop is at the door.We know to tell the cop that we are not paying passengers (Grey Rabbit only had permits for Cal. Or.and WA)That cop tried his hardest to get one of us to slip up but we didn’t. The driver was pulled off the bus into the cop car. The driver returned later with a speeding ticket fo 70 in 55. That bus couldn’t do 70 downhill with a tail wind. Oh I forgot to mention we stopped in Las Vegas for a couple of hours. We went down coast Hwy 1 stopped at Pismo Beach , Big Sur , Contemplated using Esalens baths but didn’t. We stopped and camped in Julia Pfiefer state park overnight and went on to SF the next day. Oh yea we stopped in Santa Cruz where a guy came up to the bus and offered some mushrooms to sell. In SF we went to the SOMA hotel (hostel) That night we went to Braodway for Chinese food and decided to catch some live music , Iggy Pop was sold out across from where we went in to see from Brooklyn The Mud Dogs (hardcore) I grew tired of the scene and went back to the SOMA hotel. If any of this sounds familiar to you then we were on the same trip.It was supposed to take 3 days but it took 6.The bus broke down we needed to improvise on a fuel filter gasket wich was made from styrofoam.There was a guy named Udo from Germany , A girl from SF who was the president of the SF vegatarian Society her name was Edie , there was a couple from NH Dave and Julie Morningstar , some one from France , Italy, and a bunch of great fun people who I can’t remember thier name.
RJ
Wow! Great commentary. You really captured a lot of the alternative bus experience in your posting. Thanks so much for sharing. My first experience was a trip from Boston to SF in 1980 but we ended up deviating to West Virginia to take in the Rainbow Gathering with hopes of getting a few more fares on board. No one minded, we were all having such a great time.
Will 

I rode the Rabbit in the summer of 1980 from NYC to Berkley. The bus was an ex-Passaic – Athena and said “MT HEALTHY” on the destination sign. As we were leaving Manhattan the driver said “this bus has 1970 air conditioning – we roll down all nineteen windows and drive seventy.”
I started talking to a couple girls from Long Island. One seemed to like me until I said I liked Zappa – she resented the song Jewish Princess. She wound up seducing one of the bus drivers and they disappeared back into the sleeping cubby.
No one seemed to have weed (and alcohol was strongly discouraged to avoid pee breaks), but starting somewhere in the midwest a friend and I sampled some purple microdot and were coming down just as we hit the hot springs. Priceless.
Leaving Tahoe where the road gets a little scary with a steep drop on the right we blew a rear tire. All us guys had to help wrestle the spare out from under the mattresses and swap it with the flat.

Chris 

I rode the Grey Rabbit – or the Green Tortoise, can’t remember which – from somewhere in Montana to NYC sometime during the summer of 1980. I’d been hitch-hiking east, not very efficiently, and was running out of money.

So I had about $15 in my pocket when I got let out at a truck stop, then headed over towards the “hippie bus” I’d seen on the highway earlier. I couldn’t afford the $50 ticket but they let me on anyway, and I was in heaven – platforms, mattresses, sleeping bags, interesting people to talk to (including my future girl-friend).

The two drivers would take turns – one would drive and play an endless selection of Dylan et al tapes, the other would sleep in a cubby-hole in the very back of the bus.

At some point we stopped at a big lake in MN to swim and basically wash up, and I ended up rescuing a passenger who was having trouble swimming back to shore. That earned my ticket, according to the driver

We eventually made it to Grand Central, at which point my new girl-friend and I headed south to Maryland (my parents’) and DC (her parents’), respectively.

This all seems like several generations ago, needless to say!

I worked in Kendall Square for many years and just a couple of years ago, saw a Gray Rabbit (or Green Tortoise  parked on a side-street. This brought back a rush of memories because it looked very much like it did back then. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

 

?

Just came across this site. I came across as a little girl with my sister and dad back in 80 or 81. My folks were friends with the owner and drivers. We packed all our belongings on the rabbit in Maine and it took us to Sonoma California. Every time I smell exhaust I remember that trip. The bunks, the drivers taking turns at the wheel. And watching the sights out my tiny toddler eyes. Names that come to mind, Cookie, Rusty, Ricky to name a few. I wonder what happened to all of them. Rusty was a big sweet bear of a man.

1979

 

Paul

I started on my big OE from New Zealand in 1979 where I lived for most of that year. I used the Grey Rabbit 3 times from memory. The last time was from San Francisco to NYC. I well remember buying my bus ticket from a Mad Hatter’s shop in San Francisco and picking up the bus at Berkley University, I think.. I remember getting on the bus and lying down, as there were no seats, and loved the driver’s initial welcoming speech, and his No Smoking….tobacco that is…diatribe. I sat beside a guy , Tom, who was weird and stopped the bus in the middle of the Arizona desert in the dark to get off and wander into oblivion!! I loved the sign at the back of the coach for heterosexual couples to have a wee ‘lie down’ in private , and enjoyed the food sharing, nude swims to have a wash. I think it was that trip that a dog accompanied us as well. Our bus had Paris on the front but we didn’t quite make that. ‘ I’ll hunt out my old photos and add it .

Loved the trip, loved the concept and loved the fellow travellers. It sure was a special time in my life. Thanks!!

Jeff

Probably 1978 + 1979.

I have more memories I could share of rides fun and scary, my
co-drivers, some passengers, Lester’s unfortunate eccentricities
and just-plan-fun ones.

But I’m about to be off the grid for the rest of April. I would
be glad to contribute things, some of which you may find of value,
but I can’t work the time until May.

It was fun to find your project. Best wishes and

Vaya con carne,
el jefe

“You’re only young once. But you can be immature FOREVER.”
— Larry Andersen, relief pitcher, Seattle Mariners.

 

 

The Year of the Grey Rabbit

by Timothy LedwithIn 1979, as the U.S. became embroiled in the events that would develop into the current political climate, one man set out in search of America. Today, he remembers who he—and the country—were.
Credit: Timothy Ledwith

For the counterculture of late-1970s America—including latecomers like me, who had missed out on the original wild ride of the ’60s—the Grey Rabbit was the “hippie bus” of choice.

Not to be confused with its straight-laced cousin, the Greyhound, the Grey Rabbit was the most successful of many alternative bus lines that were based in northern California and the Pacific Northwest in those days. Born of the wandering spirit of Kerouac and Kesey, the Rabbit was sustained by a generation of stoners in need of cheap, weed-friendly transportation. For a fare of $75 per passenger, the vintage bus sprinted along the full length of Interstate 80 between San Francisco and New York City. To keep white-line fever at bay, the bus’s two drivers took the wheel in alternating eight-hour shifts.

In the autumn of 1979, I rode the Grey Rabbit back home to New York after hitchhiking 3,000 miles to the West Coast. Four years earlier, my escape from a stifling childhood on Staten Island had been made possible by admission to the state university in Albany. My academic career eventually fizzled out, but I fell in with a community of kindred spirits in Albany’s inner city and began to make a life for myself there.

I spent the summer of ’79 working on a house-painting job with my friend Jay. Like most of my Albany comrades, Jay was older than me and had come of age at the height of the Vietnam War and civil rights protests. His horn-rimmed glasses were perpetually speckled with paint from the 19th-century row houses he artfully restored.

In July of that year, while Jay and I scraped and repainted old bricks baked from Hudson Valley clay, portentous events were playing out halfway around the world. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein was formally taking power as head of state. In Afghanistan, tensions were building toward an impending Soviet invasion in December. In Iran, the newly victorious Islamic revolution was consolidating its grip on power. Our own country quickly became entangled in these events, and entangled it remains. If these were warnings, we didn’t heed them. And I certainly wasn’t listening—in all my naïve, 21-year-old glory, I only heard America calling.

Overly egalitarian as a boss, Jay paid me more than he probably should have that summer. My living expenses were absurdly low, and by the time the house-painting season wound down in September, I was feeling flush.

With three months’ cash wages to burn, I set out for California via a route mapped according to the whereabouts of any friends, relatives, or vague acquaintances with whom I might crash along the way. In this circuitous fashion, I reached San Francisco in about three weeks.

To a city kid who had only seen the West in the movies, the trip was a revelation. Even Cinemascope, I realized, crammed that vast expanse into a constricting frame. Revelatory, as well, was the openness and hospitality of virtually everyone I met.

They asked us to take our shoes off to keep the mattresses clean and the vibe mellow. We readily complied.

Admittedly, the people who gave me rides out of their way and put me up for the night were a self-selecting group of freethinkers, while a majority of clean-cut Americans surely would have had nothing to do with my scraggily kind. And yet, at that brief moment in time—just a few years after the end of a long, divisive war and the downfall of an arrogant, felonious president—it seemed possible that America had learned something about peace, justice, and even love, and would begin to act accordingly.

This was a beautiful hope.

 By the time I left San Francisco on the Grey Rabbit, heading home, it was mid-October of 1979. I got an early start on the day of my departure, because I had heard that the Rabbit operated on a highly approximate schedule—no surprise there—and I didn’t want to miss it.

Strapping on my well-worn backpack, I checked a street map and began hiking toward the intersection where the bus began its weekly run. I paused at a traffic light after a few blocks, and a lanky blond kid ambled up to me, holding out his hand in greeting. The kid wore faded army fatigues and had an overstuffed duffel bag slung over his shoulder.

“Hey man, you lookin’ for the Grey Rabbit?” he asked. “Me too!”

I returned Duffel Boy’s bro-style handshake, though not very enthusiastically. He had the air of a shaggy dog who might knock you to the ground in his eagerness to buddy up, so I tried to keep my distance. Still, out of all the vagabonds on all the street corners in Haight-Ashbury, he had somehow profiled me as a fellow ticket holder on the hippie bus. We walked together the rest of the way.

The Rabbit wasn’t hard to spot. Parked on a nondescript side street, the bus was resplendent with psychedelic filigrees and, if memory serves, Day-Glo peace signs painted on both sides.

We mingled on the sidewalk with about 20 other assorted but uniformly disheveled passengers, then formed a ragtag line for boarding. Once inside, we saw that the coach had been stripped of everything except the driver’s seat, and mattresses were laid end-to-end along the entire length of the floor.

The flannel-shirted drivers counted out the small bills that most of us used to pay our way. I don’t remember their names, but before long we were calling them Cheech and Chong. They asked us to take our shoes off in order to keep the mattresses clean and the vibe mellow. We readily complied.

During a final engine check, the drivers made earnest incantations over the open hood but didn’t adjust a single belt or hose. And then we were off. The bus immediately filled up with a haze of incense and marijuana smoke that would persist until we pulled up outside the Port Authority terminal in Manhattan, three and a half days later.

 Though the Grey Rabbit was known for making a straight shot from coast to coast, there were a couple of selected detours off Route 80. One of them took us to a hot spring in a remote corner of Wyoming.

Patches of snow dotted the stark foothills around the spring, which billowed steam into the afternoon sunlight. We all piled off the bus, stripped down and gingerly waded into the deliciously hot, sulfurous bath. After relaxing every muscle, we roused ourselves for the coup de grace: a bracing splash in the cold mountain stream that ran through a nearby ravine.

Cheech and Chong sat on their haunches next to the Grey Rabbit and shared a smoke, watching us with the bemused expressions of indulgent parents. Eventually they coaxed us back onto the bus—not an easy task, as we had scattered around the vicinity in various states of ecstasy and stupor.

Soon the Grey Rabbit was moving again, its atmosphere now sober and subdued (though still smoke-filled).

The Rabbit lurched into gear and we were back on the road. It was dusk when we reached the eastbound interstate. As night fell, the world outside faded into pitch blackness and the coach lights dimmed. We bundled ourselves in sleeping bags and comforters against the chill seeping in through the leaky windows. A Grateful Dead tune—“Sugar Magnolia”—played low on the driver’s cassette deck, and we began to doze off.

Then from the darkness a plaintive voice asked no one in particular, “Yo, where’s that tall guy?”

I sat up and peered around, stomach knotting when I realized it was true: Duffel Boy was gone. I still regret my snobbery in rebuffing his harmless overtures. Had we bonded, I would have noticed his absence earlier, before we left him alone at the hot spring.

The bus pulled over and the lights came on when word of our missing passenger reached the drivers. We commiserated on the best course of action and agreed that going back would be pointless—it would take another two hours, and Duffel Boy already might have hitched a ride. Instead, Cheech and Chong would steel themselves to notify the state police at the next rest stop, and the cops would have to take it from there.

Soon the Grey Rabbit was moving again, its atmosphere now sober and subdued (though still smoke-filled). We got back under our wraps, but none of us would sleep well that night. The next day would be my 22nd birthday. I decided to keep it to myself.

Out of the heavy silence, the same voice that had raised the alarm about Duffel Boy’s disappearance sent one more missive into the void:

“I hope the poor dude had his boots on.”

Two weeks later, on Nov. 4, 1979, a group of radical Iranian students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran, taking scores of hostages and holding them for more than a year. The hostage crisis discredited Jimmy Carter, contributing directly to his 1980 election defeat at the hands of Ronald Reagan’s conservative coalition—which, in turn, begat the resurgence of the hard right and all that has followed in its wake.

My fellow travelers and I didn’t know it that night in Wyoming, but the Grey Rabbit was carrying us headlong into an ominous new landscape of political and cultural backlash. It was almost morning in America, and soon enough, we, too, would be out in the cold.

aron pieman kay

high i rode the rabbitt 3 times….i did the nyc-mardi gras 1978 trip; july 1978 nyc to sf and the xmas 1979 nyc-sf trip….i enjoyed them all!!! met all sorts of folks from everywhere and i would do it again!!! i still recall peter….i met him on the 1978 mardi gras trip and i saw him in san luis obispo at a demonstration protesting the nuke plant at diablo canyon….ironically peter came by my crib in the east village to buy some weed….i sold him a generous amount…soon i did the christmas nyc-sf trip….it was fun for sure!!!

1978

Steven

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!

Coleen

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.

 

Hunter Gatherer 

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.

 

Jeff

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.