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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

A Fateful Ride

January 29, 2020

Last week a Facebook ad crossed my timeline in search of recent college graduates who might be interested in driving a hot dog on wheels all over the country for a year. Most people would be shocked reading such a solicitation. I, however, didn’t give it a second glance. I am an expert in riding in free-moving frankfurters. I once spent a day in the Wienermobile.

In 2003 I wrote the following column:

One day I will lay on my deathbed and say, “I didn’t cure cancer. I didn’t resolve the Middle East peace problem, and I didn’t stop world hunger. But doggone it, I rode in the Wienermobile!”

A few years ago, I spotted the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile parked outside of a restaurant in my hometown of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I wheeled my truck into the parking lot and made a mad dash through the dining room in search of the driver of the huge wiener on wheels. I was looking for two fifty-ish looking, overweight men with Oscar Mayer golf shirts and beer guts. What I found were two pretty and perky young ladies sharing a salad.

The “Hotdoggers” were in town to give $10,000 to a school. I pulled up a chair and asked them if I could ride in the Wienermobile. After 10 minutes of pleading, they determined that I wasn’t a murderous stalker and agreed. We set a rendezvous date and time for the following day.

And who said there was nothing to do in Hattiesburg, Mississippi?

The Wienermobile is hard to miss. Next to the Goodyear Blimp, it is one of the oldest and most recognizable mobile-promotional gimmicks in existence. Oscar Mayer puts recent college graduates through a grueling interview process for this much-sought-after job. The Hotdoggers agree to dedicate one year of their lives riding around in a giant wiener.

My Hotdoggers, Regan Relish and Monique Mustard, arrived at my office on time and we boarded the porcine mothership.

The Wienermobile draws attention wherever it goes. It is 27 feet long (55 hot dogs), eight feet wide (18 hot dogs), 11 feet tall (25 hot dogs) and weighs 14,050 pounds (140,500 hot dogs). It can also “haul buns” at 90 mph.

I made the wiener girls pull up to the drive-though window of the local Lucky Dogs franchise (it’s now a Cane’s chicken tender restaurant). The Lucky Dogs employee was taken aback when struck by the culinary paradox of a giant hot dog pulling up to the window of a hot-dog-themed restaurant to order a hot dog. I asked the attendant what type of hot dogs they used. She said they serve Lykes wieners. We all booed and hissed. Over the Wienermobile’s exterior PA system, I told her that I was with the wiener police and would be sending an associate to pay them a visit. Then we sped off blowing our wiener whistles at them. True story.

Next, we busted my daughter out of school. As the Wienermobile pulled into the parking lot of the school she happened to be standing outside. Her eyes were wide with surprise as the giant hot dog came to a stop, the gull-wing door opened, and I walked out. That moment should have been one of the greatest moments in fatherhood. She shrugged and said, “Oh, it’s just my dad” and then walked back inside as if it were a common, everyday occurrence. In a flash, dozens of kids swarmed the Wienermobile.

Without prompting, the entire parking lot broke out in a spontaneous rendition of the Oscar Mayer wiener song. “Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener. That is what I’d truly like to be. And if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener, everyone would be in love with me.” Actually, it was just the teachers, the Hotdoggers, my wife and me. The kids were all too young to remember the jingle.

It was at that precise moment that I realized that the folks at Oscar Mayer are marketing geniuses. They convinced an entire generation— my generation— to be wieners. Not astronauts, or lawyers, or doctors, we wanted to be wieners and we joyfully sang about it.

Maybe that’s the problem with my generation. We all grew up aspiring to be nothing more than pig lips and sodium benzoate and our wishes came true. That little advertising ditty is probably responsible for most of the problems in my early life. I couldn’t be a productive member of society, because I was too busy trying to be an Oscar Mayer wiener so “everyone would be in love with me”.

Oscar Mayer could have started the song with: “Oh I wish I were the answer to world hunger” or “Oh I wish I were a member of the Peace Corps” or even “Oh I wish I were a nuclear physicist”. But that wouldn’t cut the mustard; we all wanted to be wieners.

Later in the day, I had the Hotdoggers drive the Wienermobile to my house (my neighbors are used to seeing things like this). I wanted my two-year old son to see it, too. I have a long, narrow, steep driveway. The Wienermobile got stuck in the driveway. The Hotdoggers didn’t panic. They remained calm and spent 35 minutes backing the 27-foot wiener all the way out.

My top-ten-things-to-do-before-I-die list includes: spending a month eating my way across France, touring the great pyramids, dancing the robot on the Great Wall of China, having my picture made while walking across Abbey Road, and riding in the Wienermobile. Check another item off of the list.


It’s heartening to me that, since this column was written 17 years ago, I have knocked a few items off of my bucket list— I have eaten my way across France, and I have walked across Abbey Road. I plan to do those two things again. I’d also like to take one more ride in the Wienermobile. To the Oscar Mayer suits: If anyone in the corporate office is reading this, I’ll foot the gas bill. Come on back to town, let’s hit the road for a day and take that giant hot dog out for another spin.

This week’s column: Crawfish and Andouille Hushpuppies 

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