Three women stood Thursday in a place no local ever wants to be: stranded on the shoulder of I-15.
Their pickup truck was broken down, the rear of it jutting dangerously into the left lane. Not a fun place to be at any time of day, never mind at 5 p.m.
Rush hour traffic swerved around them, impatient and hurried and much too close to feel safe. Yet, when they saw the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile pass by, they hollered. They waved and hooted. They actually jumped up and down.
That is the joy of the Wienermobile; just the sight of it can make you forget where you are. It can even make you relish being stuck on the side of a Las Vegas highway, even on a 108 degree day.
The Wienermobile, manned by Team Bunderstruck, arrived in town earlier this week for a four-day stop. Their mission? To boldly go where no Wienermobiles have gone before. And to take pictures while going there.
Team Bunderstruck — two young Minnesotans who are perfectly matched in temperament and attitude — is one of six Hotdogger teams competing in a national Wienermobile Run this summer. While Oscar Mayer’s Wienermobiles have been spreading good hotdog cheer since 1934, this is the first year that they’re actually competing for something.
Through September, each team must travel to assigned cities, performing a series of scavenger hunt challenges. Fans can submit challenges for specific teams at wienermobilerun.com. If you really get into hotdog races, you can join a team’s fanbase. This could pay off in the end with some hotdog swag and a special visit from the Wienermobile.
Teams recieve points for each challenge. For instance, if you see Bunderstruck while they’re in town, Tweet the Wienermobile’s photo with the hashtag #Bunderstruck and the team gets points. Bunderstruck is staying at the Luxor until Sunday. Management is letting them park the Wienermobile out front so you might be able to spot it there.
“One of the things we hope to do is actually come across someone broken down on the side of the road and help them,” says Hannah Carlson, 22.
Not today, though. On this day, their mission was to snap a photo of the Wienermobile in front of a local landmark.
She and fellow Hotdogger Mike Tierney, 25, headed to the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign.
First, they had to pick up a reporter and photographer from the Review-Journal.
Sadly, the Wienermobile got lost in the Spaghetti Bowl on its way downtown. It was the first time Team Bunderstruck had taken the 27-foot long dog out for a spin in Las Vegas. The GPS sent them to an exit that was closed.
They hope to minimize future glitches by relying on the locals for ideas, suggestions and directions.
The Wienermobile that pulled up in front of the RJ building was a 2012 model, sleek and stylish in its red and yellow color combination. It stands 40 hotdogs high (11 feet); 60 hotdogs long and 20 hotdogs wide. Inside, it features a state-of-the-art sound system, comfortable seats for up to six people (including the shotbun seat next to the driver) and a strong air conditioner that turned out to be no match for the desert sun.
When you eat a hot dog, you want it to be hot. When you ride inside a hot dog, at least during the summer, you want it to be the opposite of hot. On the way to the Las Vegas sign, the Hotdoggers and passengers boiled under the giant windows.
Still, when you ride in the Wienermobile, you must abide by the rules of the Wienermobile, miserable or not. Tierney and Carlson received 40 hours of driver training at Hot Dog High; they learned how to handle their Wienermobile from Oscar Mayer’s Wiener Master.
You must fasten your meatbelt before the Wienermobile can move, even when it’s so hot that your shirt is clinging to your back and a band of sweat is pooling under the straps.
When someone honks or waves at the Wienermobile, you must wave back. Even the hot, sweaty passengers must wave.
“When Mike and I were first behind the wheel with the Wiener Master, people would just be behind us honking. We thought, are we this bad?” Carlson recalls.
Nope. They have discovered during their travels over the past two weeks that it’s pretty much a law for people to sound their horn at the Wienermobile.
“It’s a sight to see the Wienermobile,” Tierney says. “People get excited.”
Carlson and Tierney both applied to be Hotdoggers after graduating from college recently. They had known previous hotdoggers and thought that the chance to tour the country in a hotdog was too good to pass up. Carlson wanted to be a writer when she was a kid; Tierney dreamed of being an astronaut cowboy.
Hotdogger is a dream job, they say, but it lasts for only one year. Then they have to pass the mustard bottle to the next class of Hotdoggers. During that year, they spend most of their time on the road, with the exception of four weeks of vacation. They stay in hotels along the way, paid for by Oscar Mayer.
To pass the time on the road, they listen to a mix of books-on-tape and alternative bands. Right now, they’re on the fourth book of the Harry Potter series. Luckily, they have similar tastes.
People are often surprised that Hotdogging is, indeed, a job, they say. But eating hotdogs is not one of their duties.
“To me, hotdogs are an occasion food, for a party or a holiday,” Carlson says.
When they do eat them, they load them up with condiments, everything except mushrooms. She likes mustard and ketchup.
“I’m a ketchup guy,” Tierney says. “I know a lot of people say that ruins a hotdog but I like it.”
After living and breathing hotdogs for nearly two months, you might think they have hotdogs on the brain 24/7. They say they do occasionally dream about the Wienermobile. But not hotdogs.
Carlson’s dreams are normal and then, suddenly, there’s the Wienermobile in it.
Tierney’s dreams are a bit more tortured.
“I dream about things like running out of Wiener Whistles,” Tierney says of the little hotdog souvenir whistles they had out to the public. “So it’s more like Wienermobile nightmares.”
Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at email@example.com or 702-380-4564. Follow @StripSonya on Twitter.