Bobcat Isaac Wilker with Jay Leno in the Wienermobile

Isaac Wilker met Jay Leno in Los Angeles and taught him to drive the Wienermobile.

Photo courtesy of: Isaac Wilker

Isaac Wilker poses in front of the Wienermobile

Wilker poses in front of the Wienermini and Wienermobile in an Ohio University shirt.

Photo courtesy of: Isaac Wilker

Isaac Wilker on the Wienercycle in NYC

Wilker tests out Oscar Mayer's Wienercycle on the streets of New York City.

Photo courtesy of: Isaac Wilker

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OHIO alumnus relishes in adventure of a lifetime

Isaac Wilker is one of the select few chosen to drive the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile

What’s more surprising than seeing a giant hot dog roll down the street? Seeing Jay Leno lean out the window to say hello.

On a recent episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage,” Leno joined Ohio University alumnus Isaac Wilker as they took the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile out for a spin on the streets of Los Angeles. Leno is seen attempting to parallel park the massive 27-foot-long vehicle and is given high praise by Wilker when he succeeds, even if he knocked over a few cones in the process.

Wilker, a 2016 graduate, joined Oscar Mayer’s team as one of 12 hotdoggers, recent college graduates who are chosen to pilot the six Wienermobiles around the country for a year.

He drove the hot dog on wheels for a year, starting in June of 2016. He then stayed on an extra five weeks as part of the extension team, and helped train the new hotdoggers and filmed videos introducing the Wienerfleet. 

Wilker learned about the position in his senior year at OHIO and applied for the job.

“When I read about it online I thought ‘my gosh, that would be the perfect intersection for a marketing and management major who loves to travel and loves to drive,’” Wilker said.

In an effort to stand out, he sent in his résumé and cover letter in a rectangular box he decorated to look like a hot dog. In his letters of recommendation, his employers used hot dog puns such as “Isaac works his buns off” and “He’s a top dog.”

Wilker and eleven others were chosen out of 1,200 applicants.

After securing the job, Wilker traveled to Madison, Wisconsin —the headquarters of Oscar Mayer — to take part in two weeks of training at Hot Dog High. Those two weeks included classwork where Wilker and his fellow hotdoggers covered media training and crisis management, and also learned to drive the Wienermobile.

To learn how to drive the huge vehicle, hotdoggers learned to maneuver large vans with blacked out windows to simulate the lack of visibility and obvious blind spots in the Wienermobile.   

“It’s almost like getting your license for the first time,” Wilker said.

After graduating from Hot Dog High, these drivers took off, each Wienermobile in one of six regions of the country.

The day-to-day life in the Wienermobile usually included Wilker and his partner in a certain city for a week, though no two days were alike, he said. Mondays were driving days, headed from one city to the next. During traffic, Wilker would use the vehicle’s PA system to sing the Oscar Mayer jingle or tell hot dog jokes to the drivers nearby.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays were days off to learn about the city around them. One of Wilker’s favorite parts about driving the Wienermobile, he said, was that the giant hot dog was their personal vehicle.

“If we went to get groceries, went to get a haircut, went out to eat, went hiking, the Wienermobile is our transportation to do that,” Wilker said.

Everywhere the hotdoggers went, people followed, taking selfies with the Wienermobile and asking to look inside.

“It was funny for me when someone would come up and say they were a vegetarian, but they still wanted to take a picture with the Wienermobile,” Wilker said.

On Thursday through Sunday, the Wienermobile would attend events at grocery stores, festivals and baseball games to promote awareness of the Oscar Mayer health-conscious hot dogs. These hot dogs contain no artificial preservatives, no by-products, and no added nitrates or nitrites — except those naturally occurring in celery juice.

“Our effort in the Wienermobile is to get a better hot dog in the hands of every American,” Wilker said.

Oscar Mayer recently introduced new members of the Wienerfleet: the Wienercycle and the Wienerdrone. Wilker and his team hauled the Wienerfleet to Wiener, Arkansas, for the Fourth of July weekend and cooked hot dogs for the entire town of approximately 750 people. Even the mayor was welcomed to the event via a ride in the Wienermobile.

Driving the Wienermobile was an incredible adventure, Wilker said. He was able to explore much of the United States and interacted with thousands of people, all who came together for a love of hot dogs.

“You really get to see America for what it is. You get to see all sorts of social and economic backgrounds. I’m very thankful for the experiences I had,” Wilker said.

For Wilker, the Wienermobile is more than a rolling advertisement or a job.

“To get paid is just a bonus. To bring a smile and joy to so many people and to work with the people that I've worked with is just priceless. I get so much enjoyment from driving around and surprising people. I never tire of that at all,” Wilker said.