I became acquainted with the White Rabbit after my friend moved away and we began writing each other. She lived in Texas and I lived in Oregon. As we exchanged long letters, our virtual romantic interests peaked and I decided I would go to Houston to visit her. So I saved up my money and took a train to see her. I’m not going to suggest my head was driving that decision, but at least it told me not to try driving my old Volvo 142 that far. That may well have been my only good call on this mis-adventure.
The train trip from Oregon to Texas took three days. I never wanted to repeat doing that again, going coach class. But it was certainly colorful, replete with grifters, a traveling card shark, a damsel in distress, and old trainmen who seemed to be relics of the past.
When I got to Houston, the very first thing I heard from Anna’s mouth, right at the train station was “ I don’t think this is going to work out”. How’s that for a warm welcome after three days on a train?
We decided a road trip in her White Rabbit was going to be a better way to spend time than sitting around her house thinking about what could have been. Turns out we really made better friends than lovers anyways; well, not that I really ever had the chance to find out. Maybe just as well, because her brother Rob needed to come with us. The night before we were to leave he had gotten mixed up with some guys and one or two of them had ended up beat down with a baseball bat, so he needed to lay low for awhile. What better idea than to drive across Texas and Oklahoma in the middle of summer in a beat up VW Rabbit with your sister and her friend?
I’m a big guy, 6’3 and not so light. Rob was tall but skinny; however he insisted on bringing his guitar. Three teenagers and a guitar plus a girl’s luggage made for a crowded little bunny, especially in the Texas summer. Air conditioning? What’s that? Most of the time we kept at least one foot out the windows; Rob hadn’t even brought shoes.
Concepts of physics, safety, or legal constraints were unknown to Anna and her White Rabbit. She seemed to travel at a constant 70-80 mph under all circumstances. I was amazed that she had not been locked away long ago as we sped through the streets of Houston and out onto the great brown expanse of Texas.
Anna and her White Rabbit just didn’t pay much attention to where they were going while hurtling down the road at Ludicrous Speed. I was constantly pointing out directions and signs, like the big orange “Road Closed” one just ahead. Anna expressed doubt that the whole highway was actually closed. So she took the extreme left side around the barriers and signs. As we hurtled onward we were suddenly propelled over about a 12 inch gap between the old concrete and the new concrete. The White Rabbit knew how to leap.
But this new concrete was still quite wet. This fact was made apparent by the greatly increased drag on the White Rabbit’s wheels and its resultant slower speed. Anna responded by giving it more gas. We whizzed by open-mouthed construction workers who dropped their lunches in order to shake their fists at us.
The little bunny leaped another 12 inch gap and we were back on firm concrete. At some point during this short ordeal Rob woke up and sought the reason why. I attempted to explain to him what had happened as tactfully as possible but Anna disagreed with my version of the events. We did find common ground on one conclusion: that the cops would certainly be after us soon. And since the highway we were on went pretty much in a straight line right to Tulsa, we decided to divert to some secondary roads. Apparently it worked.
That’s not to say we didn’t have other encounters with the law: On the way to Bartlesville, Rob got arrested, we got him un-arrested, we eluded the police, and pranked the Broken Arrow police department. But that’s another story.
On the way back, somewhere between Dallas and Houston the White Rabbit began to lose its seemingly magical abilities. It grew slower and slower, until Anna had to pull off the highway. We popped the hood and I was faced with a mass of deteriorating hoses and old wires. I really did not know much about cars at all so I just looked for something that might look broken.
I soon found it: the thing I believed to be the carburetor was falling off. All the nuts had fallen off and it was just sitting on the manifold. So we did what teenagers do when the chips are down: we sat down and Anna put Pink Floyd’s “Hey You” on the stereo. We all just sat there feeling depressed while Roger Waters sang “and the worms ate into his brain”.
I finally decided that some action was called for before the worms ate all of mine: I should find a parts store and that I would just start walking toward the most populous looking area. Just then a policeman pulled up and asked us about our predicament. After explaining it to him, we were told that we had to move or be towed and that he could not let us use his phone or give us a ride. I told him that the car was worthless to us and that it we would just leave it unless we could obtain the four nuts necessary to fix it.
After some thought he decided he would drive me to the parts store. As it turned out the store was just down the road. I got several different sized nuts and I walked back to the White Rabbit. Even though I got the new nuts on, it still would not start. So Anna walked to the parts store and called her dad.
We eventually got back to Houston in Anna’s dad’s car and the White Rabbit got towed back. I had to leave on the train the next morning so I never got roped into trying to fix it. Consequently, when I left that I had spent all of my money on gas for the Rabbit and had no money for food for the three day trip back. Anna’s mom must have felt my coming pangs, and packed a sandwich for me.
So the first day I had the sandwich and then it was make friends with the bar-car guy and try to keep full on Chex mix and salted nuts. I was pretty dang hungry when I got back. Funny thing happened though; I found my ticket stub in a jacket pocket several months later and took it out of the envelope to save it. Right behind it I found a 20 dollar bill I had stashed at the beginning of my trip and forgotten about.
I have owned a lot of Rabbits since then (lord only knows why). But this one was the first one I was really intimate with; a lot more intimate than I ever got with Anna. But given that my nuts never did get the White Rabbit’s motor going, maybe that’s just as well.