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…..

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.