Hotdogging along PCH in the West Coast Wienermobile

It was just another Wednesday for Abbey Rank and Keila Garza.

They waited at 5 a.m. in a Downey hotel room and put on their work clothes: a yellow polo shirt, a red jacket emblazoned with “Keep It Oscar,” an embroidered black apron and the matching fanny packs they call “Bologna bags.” Before dawn, they were back on the road driving the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile from the West Coast to Los Feliz as their “hotdogger” alter egos: Abbey Frankfurter and Queso Dog Keila.

“This is such a funny thing, you know?” Rank said later that day, looking at the cars below. “We literally drove a giant hot dog across the United States just to make people laugh.”

Hotdoggers Abbey Rank and Keila Garza ride the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile while visiting LA

Hotdoggers Abbey Rank and Keila Garza ride the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile while visiting LA

(Julia Carmel/Los Angeles Times)

While five of Oscar Mayer’s six Wienermobiles have Wisconsin plates (which read WEENR, OUR DOG, RELSHME, YUMMY and OH I WISH), only one has a California plate: OSCRMYR. It never leaves the West Coast (which Rank defines as “all the way to Washington or all the way to Arizona”), so a 27-foot-long weenie is seen carving its way up the Pacific Coast Highway or down the coast . Las Vegas Strip this fall, Rank, 23, and Garza, 22, are the two hotdoggers who greet you from the windows of OSCRMYR.

Both are from Texas: Rank is from Houston and Garza grew up in McAllen. “I remember when I told my mom I was being sent to the West Coast, she said, ‘Keila, you know they have like six lanes on the road. Are you ready for that?'” Garza said. “I said, ‘I will be, mom'”.

Hotdogger Keila Garza smiles while riding the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.

Hotdogger Keila Garza smiles while riding the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.

(Julia Carmel/Los Angeles Times)

The first Wienermobile hit the streets in 1936, but the hotdogger program, which recruits recent college graduates to drive the six vehicles and attend grocery store openings, weddings, funerals and everything in between, began in 1988.

“It’s like seeing a unicorn,” Rank said, explaining the novelty of seeing the Wienermobile, “if a unicorn was shaped like a hot dog.”

Thousands of people apply each year, but only 12 are chosen to drive the massive hot dogs, meaning the job is harder to get than an acceptance letter to Harvard University, and more people have gone into space than driven them. the Wienermobile. Although it may sound a little misleading, none of the hotdoggers were hired to cook or sell hot dogs; they are actually traveling street teams that make public appearancesgreet awestruck shepherds and hand out sausage-related paraphernalia (including key chains, stickers, hats and the legendary sausage whistles) to excited fans.

It’s like seeing a unicorn, if a unicorn was shaped like a hot dog.

– Hotdogger Abbey range

“We recently heard a story from one of our bosses that it was his grandmother’s last wish to ride in the Wienermobile, and she passed away, but they were able to go to the beach with her ashes in one of the Wienermobiles,” Rank. said “It’s very much a part of people’s families.”

The fierce competition for the job is justified: only the most extroverted extroverts would enjoy being so recognizable and social when they’re off the clock. (When we stopped at a deli for sandwiches on our afternoon break, the cashier left her stand to gasp and ask them where the Wienermobile was).

The hot dog, which is nearly the length of every “L” on the Hollywood sign, is also quite dramatic inside: Its six plush red and yellow seats have embroidered depictions of the Wienermobile on all four sides. The bright red floor has a vibrant mustard yellow stripe running down the middle, but along the van’s perimeter are sections of repurposed bowling mat. Above the mounted bluetooth speakers and flat screen television, there is a bright blue sky dotted with perfect clouds, interrupted only by the van’s sunroof.

Two images side by side, of an embroidered wienermobile, on the left, and a hand on the steering wheel, on the right.

An embroidered image of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, left, and hotdogger Abbey Rank, right, drives the vehicle while visiting Los Angeles.

(Julia Carmel/Los Angeles Times)

“It’s always sunny in the Wienermobile,” they recited dozens of times that day as curious fans peered inside.

Driving a huge hot dog about 500 miles each week makes for a great conversation starter; Rank and Garza can now use hot dogs as their unit of measure (assuming each dog is about 5 inches long and weigh 1.6 ounces) and produce sausage-related facts and jokes like nobody’s business.

“Give me five hot dogs,” Rank said as he high-fived a young fan near Venice Boulevard. “How many hot dogs do you think this is?”

“10,000,” the girl said confidently.

“Ah, close!” Rank replied with a laugh as he handed the girl a whistle. “He has 60 hot dogs.”

Working and running errands at OSCRMYR also gave them a new perspective on driving.

“Traffic can be a lot of fun,” Rank said. “Nobody’s mad about being stuck around the Wienermobile, so they’re just waving and honking.”

“We actually have speakers that are outside,” he continued, “and I know our friends, Sizzling Shelby and Corn Dog Clara, were recently stuck in traffic, bumper to bumper, and they just started playing music.”

Two women sit on the steps of an open side of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.

Hotdoggers Keila Garza and Abbey Rank sit for a portrait in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, which they drove around Los Angeles.

(Julia Carmel/Los Angeles Times)

Each year, the 12 hotdoggers gather in June for a two-week program called Hot Dog High. There they get bags of merchandise (which they call street meat) and train their way from driving large SUVs to a full-sized Wienermobile.

“At one point we do these obstacle courses,” Garza said with a laugh. “Just like going through stages of what you’ll go through in a big hot dog.”

Despite that training, the hotdoggers don’t need special commercial licenses to drive the Wienermobile, and the actual vehicle only uses the amount of gasoline of a large SUV. But stopping for gas is almost always a thing.

“It’s like ‘The Walking Dead’ — people flock from so far away to start talking to us,” Rank said. “The best thing is when someone is pumping gas in front of us and trying to be really cool.”

And even though it’s not technically a truck, hotdoggers have CB radios, use special trucker navigation apps (that let them enter the vehicle’s height and length for the route), and get monthly billings at Penske, making them feel. a kinship with the other large vehicles passing by on the road.

“We feel for the truck drivers trying to get into a different lane and how many people don’t let them pass,” Garza said. “Abbey and I were like, ‘We promise that every truck driver who needs to change lanes in front of us will merge.’

Want “meat” to the Wienermobile?

This weekend includes two SoCal events:

From 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM on Saturday, find him at the Northgate Market in Hawthorne (3930 W. Rosecrans Avenue) and from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Sunday, show him off at the Canines N’ Cars Show in Huntington Beach ( 16582 Gotthard Street) . Here is a map to find out the next stops of the Wienermobile.

Working on such a large and recognizable vehicle could feel exhausting after a while, but both Rank and Garza seem to enjoy every moment. Even as they struggle to find parking or spend an hour at the gas station answering questions, they ignore it and say they’re living in “hot dog time.”

“You can never be a hotdogger again,” Garza said. “You have one year to make the most of it, to make the most smiles, the most joy.”

“So I’d rather drive this every time I go to the grocery store and have someone stop and try to peek in or whatever,” he continued. “Because in the end, once it’s over, I’ll never do it again.”

Hotdoggers Keila Garza and Abbey Rank sit atop the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.

Hotdoggers Keila Garza and Abbey Rank sit atop the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.

(Julia Carmel/Los Angeles Times)

Watch the LA Times today at 7pm on Spectrum News 1 on Channel 1 or stream live on the Spectrum News app. Viewers on the Palos Verdes Peninsula and Orange County can watch it on Cox Systems on channel 99.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *