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The Kindness Cab: So many fares to remember

November 16, 2011|By Catharine Hamm | Los Angeles Times Travel editor

Three weeks, 11 cities, $11,500 raised and countless lives touched.

That’s a summary of the 4,150-mile journey of the Kindness Cab, a 1985 London Sterling cab (see pictures of it here) that adventurer Leon Logothetis bought in New Mexico, transported to New York and christened as the conveyance of good works. Along with friend and cameraman Steve Privolos, the two took calls from people wanting a free ride in the cab. They were happy to oblige.

They took a man with liver cancer to a VA hospital in St. Louis. They took a couple to their wedding at a chapel in Las Vegas. They picked up a family that didn’t get out much and took them for ice cream. They carried a harmonica-playing dad (video above). Everywhere they went, the deep-green cab attracted attention, garnering smiles and waves from people amused by the unusual looking (and unusually painted) vehicle. (I saw this for myself on a recent spin around downtown Los Angeles—lots of smiles and nods from people, and when was the last time you saw that in L.A. traffic?)

You may remember Logothetis from stories he has written for the Los Angeles Times. Perhaps you know him from his TV series, "Amazing Adventures of a Nobody." Maybe you recall that he and his driving partner/cameraman, Steve Privolos, started the Mongol Rally this summer from Britain to Mongolia in a tiny car that was broadsided in Romania, bringing their adventure to an end.

After that near disaster, Logothetis was down but not out. He was eager to find another way, he said, to celebrate kindness.

From New York to Washington, D.C.; Indianapolis; Cincinnati; Chicago; Galesburg, ill.; St. Louis; Denver; Santa Fe, N.M.; Phoenix; Las Vegas; and finally L.A., they gave so many rides that they lost track of how many people they met—but not the amount that passengers would have paid for the fares. That’s the amount that turned into donations to local schools and to St. Joseph Center in Venice.

They did lose count of the number of mechanical problems the cab had. (The man from whom Logothetis bought the cab told him to call whenever he had a mechanical issue. They spoke daily during the three weeks.) There was an alternator issue (hence the spare battery you see in the “boot” when you look at the photo gallery), a steering column issue and a few others.

Besides the mechanical issues, they ran into a bit of weather in Colorado (12 inches of snow) and discovered that the Kindness Cab was a bit reluctant to go up hills (sort of a problem in West Virginia and Colorado).

But all’s well that ends well. They arrived Monday in Los Angeles. They made it in one piece, albeit minus one gas cap. “The whole trip,” Logothetis told me, “has been blessed.”

On Thursday and Friday, he will be appearing at Moffett Elementary, Lennox Middle and Jefferson Elementary schools in Lennox to speak with students about giving from the heart. At 4 p.m. Friday, he will do a book signing at Barnes & Noble in Manhattan Beach.

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