2009.05.06 Visit to motorized hot dog crosses one off list

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

Unlike many people, I don’t really have a “bucket list,” a record of things I want to accomplish before I die. The movie with a similar name a year or two ago got people thinking about such ideas, but I figure you can’t really plan a lot of this stuff. If it’s just a matter of having the time and money to do something, what’s the big deal? Anyone with both could easily accomplish any wish you could come up with.

I’m more fascinated by achieving something by being in the right place at the right time. I’ve written before of how every time I go to St. Louis, I just barely miss seeing singing legend Chuck Berry in concert. Every single trip, something caused me to miss catching his show, usually because I had to leave town the morning of his concert. I was in the right place, just not at the right time.

That’s why last Friday I was off to Wauseon to see...wait for it...yes, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. That’s right, the godfather of all vehicles resembling the lowly hot dog. Actually, it’s the only such vehicle. And since it was in Fulton County for one day only, a short road trip was in order.

That’s what I mean by right place at the right time. I’ve never heard of the Wienermobile ever making an appearance anywhere near me in the past. Chances that it might occur again before that bucket thing happens might be pretty slim. And with it scheduled to be less than a half hour away, my attendance was virtually mandatory. The place was as convenient as it was ever likely to be—I would have to make the time.

It was raining lightly when I arrived at the appointed location, which probably held down the crowds somewhat. I parked nearby and took a few photos, then checked it out a little closer.

I got a kick out of the lettering across the back, reading “WIENERMOBILE.” Did they think people might confuse it with something else? Actually, from the back, it did bear a slight resemblance to a Pontiac Aztek. No, I’m just kidding, the styling of the Wienermobile far surpasses that of the Aztek, even for someone who dislikes hot dogs.

As I walked around the passenger side of the giant frankfurter (can a frankfurter even be said to have a passenger side?), I saw that the rear door was open and, can it be possible? Yes, the general public was being allowed inside the famous marketing tool! After a short wait, it was my turn to step inside the gigantic sausage.

One of the Wienermobile’s drivers (it has a two-person team in charge of it) asked if I had any questions. I resisted the temptation to ask if I could drive it, although it might have been fun to take it to the drive-through at McDonald’s and order a hot dog. Instead, I asked her how fast it was.

“It hauls buns,” she answered, a statement I’m sure breaks them up at Oscar Mayer’s marketing department. She did add that they are strictly forbidden from speeding, but in Nevada, where the speed limit is 75 mph in some areas, the Wienermobile is capable of the speed.

I can see why the company makes drivers obey the speed limit. Can you imagine the bad publicity that would result and the field day television comedians would have if the police made a traffic stop on the Wienermobile? And besides, since it’s a rolling advertisement, the slower it’s moving, the more exposure for the company. You have to drive it slow enough that people have time to recognize what it is.

I forgot to ask the driver if they take it out late at night. Imagine driving down some interstate in Utah or Montana at two in the morning and seeing a gigantic hot dog going the other direction. That would be enough to get you to swear off a bad habit or two.

Another thing I should have asked is what her official job title is. Giant hot dog replica driver? Wienermobile wrangler? Actually, Oscar Mayer is a big outfit, so she probably has some mundane marketing department title like “Mobile Marketing Assistant.”

Now that I’ve seen the Wienermobile, what’s next? I’ve seen the Goodyear blimp on several occasions, so I think I’ve got the giant ad symbols division covered. I’ve also given up on ever running into Chuck Berry. Maybe I should start working on a list...just forget about the bucket.

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