Touristy Tuesday takes a big leap across the country this week to Madison, Wisconsin. After three months on the road, it was time for Abe and I to head back to the Hot Dog Headquarters!
Our flight out of LAX was an early one. We were in a hotel nearby, but the time we saved driving to the airport was lost when I had to engage in the Art of Repacking to get my bag down from 68lbs to under 50lbs. (Oops!) Luckily, Abe packs light and is able to fly overweight bags for free (thanks again military ID!) and so I loaded him up with shampoos, makeup, and hair accessories galore.
He got me back for that hassle though with some pretty embarrassing photos from the flight. In my defense, it was a very early morning! Just one more to add to his “Sleeping Beauty” album of pictures of me catching ZZZs across America!
Our first night in Madison we headed over to RK’s Burger Lounge, which was actually one of our bosses’ apartment. She’s in her 20’s and yet has managed to create an absolutely “Pinterest Perfect” home! If my house could look a third as cute as her’s did, I’d be happy.
After dinner we played the Newlywed’s Game, but with our Hotdogger partners. The girls of the Midwest team blew everyone out of the ballpark, with 18/20 questions right about each other. I mean, they knew everything down to each other’s favorite type of jeans! (I still claim they had an unfair advantage on some of those – only girl partners would know that about each other!) It came down to Abe and I in the SW and the NW team, tying for second. It was pretty impressive, when asked Abe’s favorite breakfast cereal, we both put “Eggs” down for the answer! I mean, that’s when you REALLY know your partner!
Tuesday was our big day in the office. After a summer wearing khakis, a polo, and tennis shoes, it was hard for me to remember what exactly “business casual” was. It didn’t help that I kind of forgot the weather wasn’t perfect everywhere in the world. I still had my suitcase packed (68lbs and all) with California clothes, which don’t exactly work when it is in the low 60’s in Wisconsin!
We did some recap discussions, about the summer on the road, and it was fun comparing notes with all the different teams about their experiences on the hot dog highways. Then after lunch in the OM cafeteria (no, we don’t live on an all hot dog diet, even back at corporate) we saw the magic of making hot dogs first hand.
We toured the plant, which was producing bun-length hot dogs and square sliced ham and cheese cold cuts. To be honest, I wasn’t fazed in the slightest – food has to be made somehow!
Once we finished the tour we had some serious business to take care of – the Marketing Challenge presentations. Yep, after walking through lunch meats being made which is not exactly a glamorous process, we would then have to present marketing promotion concepts to both of our bosses and three brand managers! There’s nothing like that to get your confidence up!
For the Marketing Challenge each team comes up with a summer promotion concept, which is judged on creativity, feasibility, and newsworthiness. The best part – the winner receives an extra day off, tacked on to one of our vacations! Because the prize was so awesome each of the teams was very hush-hush with what they had planned, so the grand reveals were very fun.
The judges all independently rate the presentations and the tallies were done right on the spot. Drum roll please…….
The Southwest Team won! Whoo!
As if the day off wasn’t prize enough, I also left the office with another present – my new Mizunos!
I had them shipped there and decided to just wait until I could pick them up, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting their arrival for weeks now! I upgraded to the latest model – I’m not sure if it was the allure of even better support or the fact that they screamed badass by being bright pink and green. We all know how much I love those watermelon shoes!
After work, we headed out for another delicious meal. That’s the blessing and curse of coming back to Madison – just like Hot Dog High – it’s always a feast! But hey, it beats the Subway Diet so who am I to complain about a week of free, fantastic meals! It gives me a reason to get some use out of the Mizunos!
To celebrate finishing the marketing challenge and the hardest part of fall staff meeting being over, the team went out to State Street Brats in downtown Madison. It was flip night, where you flip a coin and if you call it right you get 50% off your tab. Of course I would call it right when I was just getting one drink for myself, but the round of shots I bought I called the coin wrong! I should have gone with that old trickster standby my dad taught me when it comes to coin tosses and said, “heads I win, tails you lose!”
The next day was an easy day because we all had to do our 1:1 reviews. With plenty of time to kill during the day I laced up the new kicks and hit the road. It was nice because even though we were at a different hotel than Hot Dog High it was in the same area and I at least knew the roads.
As for running, because I feel obligated to at least mention it on this running blog, my pace had slowly been creeping up these past weeks. Not sure if it was from overtraining (maybe a few too many 50 mile weeks?) poor shoes, or the few extra lbs that have appeared on the road. With the new shoes though, my pace dropped a solid :25 seconds! I even did an 8:19 mile midway through the run. I realized at mile four, on my way back, that maybe the shoes didn’t deserve all the credit, as I was greeted by massive headwinds that I fought the entire way back to the hotel!
On Thursday we wrapped up the staff meeting and were issued our winter gear! I’m a little sad to be in the SW region because I won’t get the chance to wear these awesome winter coats too much around here!
Normally once the staff meeting is over the we would all head out, but with the 25th Year Reunion of Hotdoggers that weekend we got to stick around. Leary of what mischief we might get into in town and under the guise of team bonding, they sent us up to the Kalahari Waterpark Resort in the Wisconsin Dells for two nights – we obviously weren’t upset about that! When we got there the four gentlemen on our team were even able to talk the front desk into upgrading them to a Boy’s Club Suite – lucky dogs!
We had dinner with both of our bosses and did a little cosmic bowling.
The first game we bowled regularly and I ended with a paltry, yet mildly-respectable-at-least-triple-digit score of 105. The second game we bowled under new rules: odd frames left handed, even frames right handed, and the 10th frame was both hands, backwards, through the legs. Not only did I end with a higher score – 107 – but I got a strike in the 10th frame and ended with the highest score out of everyone! Whhaatt??
That night we spent hanging out in the Boy’s Club penthouse suite. Somehow Abe and I both made it through college without ever playing flip-cup, which was corrected that night. I did make for a decent partner in pong with Emma, from the MW team though, as we unseated the reigning four-round champion duo from the NW & NE teams!
We also headed down to the hotel bar for a bit. It’s so weird at those resort hotels – half families, half conventions. The bar was filled with a mix of chiropractors and psychologists – talk about an odd combination. Although they weren’t the most exciting crowd (it must be the orthopedists who really shake a leg) the DJ did play every song we requested, including Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is You.” When Jessie, from the South team, requested that I could not have been more thrilled. (I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but I started playing holiday music about a month ago!)
The next morning was rough, but somehow we all managed to get out of bed for breakfast at Mr. Pancake – which promised to be the best breakfast place in The Dells. I was not disappointed once I tried the peanut butter pancakes they offered, which were unreal.
After breakfast, we did some sight seeing around The Dells. I got a few pains of nostalgia passing Tommy Bartlett’s, Noah’s Arch, and all these other attractions that my dad took my sister and I to back in the day!
While the group stuck around The Dells for one more day, I took off back to Madison to see my sister, who had recently bought a house and a dog. Her and her fiance have done a great job making improvements on the place each week and I was excited to see it after the flow of before and after pictures they had been sending. (Of course I forgot to take any of my own pictures!)
That evening we headed back to the Holiday Inn & Suites in Madison – where Hotdogging all started for Class XXV. This was the hotel we stayed at during second round interviews and where we spent Hot Dog High. And now we were back – for the 25th Year Reunion of Hotdoggers. The Hotdogger program started in 1988 and even celebrating the silver anniversary there are still more people who have been to space than driven the Wienermobile! (You will NOT see Paul Ryan’s name on the invitation list, for the record.)
It was an absolute blast meeting Hotdoggers from Class I all the way up to Class XXIV! Everyone came with Wienermobile apparel from their days driving the big dog.
After doing pictures with the Wienermobile and its little brother LIL LINK, the Mini Cooper Wienermobile, we headed in for the hot dog reception.
What a blast! We watched old recruiting videos (the hair!!) which promised future Hotdoggers the chance to see the country one Superbowl and Mardi Gras at a time! While it’s true we do go to some pretty awesome events, one Hotdogger pointed out that the video failed to mention all the grocery stores we spend our days at!
One speaker (Amit, nicknamed GuAmit since he got to take the big dog to Guam that year) joked about how we have to plead with hotel managers like homeless people to achieve our hotel rate, which come to find out has not changed since the 90’s! We also heard countless stories from past Hotdoggers from their days on the road. Since they are no longer behind the wheel, we got to the real meat of stories too. Let’s just say they got away with a lot more back in the day before GPS tracking. But they also had maps, pagers, and faxes – there are always tradeoffs I guess!
We also heard part of Robin Gelfenbein’s comedy routine called ‘My Salvation has a First Name.’ Hilarious! She writes for the Huffington Post and frequently defends the Hotdogger program’s reputation, especially after the Paul Ryan hulalbaloo.
After the program we all stayed around for drinks. That was the best part – meeting everyone!
I even met Ron (pictured in the green shirt) a Mizzou J-School grad who also had a geology degree. Small world right?!
Abe and I stuck around longer to keep chatting up all the early Hotdoggers – I mean, how often do you get the chance to talk to the Hotdoggers who went to Hawaii, Guam, Europe, and Canada? Later, we ended up joining Class XXV and some other Hotdoggers out downtown at the Essen House, another favorite of the team!
I wouldn’t say the night actually ever ended. I suppose we all got to bed eventually, but Abe and I had to be up about an hour later for our early early flight out of Madison, so it certainly felt like an all-nighter. (Another strategically planned decision to keep us from getting too crazy! haha!) Luckily we caught up on our sleep during a full day of travel!
And here we are, back in the Golden State. This week we were in sunny San Diego and now we’re headed up to the Santa Clarita/Burbank area. As always, if you have any suggestions for where to go, what to do, or who to meet – let me know!
*Thanks to Jackie Calder, Lisa Rosenblum, and Brian Keefe for the photos that I stole off your Facebooks!