Lauren Enkerud stood exposed beside the shell-shaped body of the parked Planters NUTmobile.
Her partners had gone ahead across Concord Street, and she was in a jam as an oversized tour bus rumbled in the general direction of the synthetic pod on wheels.
Staring danger in the face, she cracked.
Er, let's rephrase that. Staring danger in the face, she cracked, "Ah, I don't want to turn into peanut butter!"
Even in the pressure-packed (or is it pressure-sealed?) world of a "peanutter," the U. of Florida alum and cohorts can be called upon to spit out legume-inating puns at the drop of 97-year-old Mr. Peanut's hat.
All puns aside, Enkerud and co-pilots Adam Escobar and Dani Poole got three pretty sweet jobs right out of college.
Originally headed to tryouts to become Oscar Meyer Weinermobile drivers (You can't make this stuff up - Oscar Meyer and Planters are sister companies under the Kraft Foods umbrella), the three gen-Yers were recruited among a pool of 1,500 people as NUTmobile motorists. Their mission: to guide the 24-foot novelty's first formal excursion to places all over the U.S. from its home in Madison, Wisc.
Escobar, a Florida International U. graduate; Poole, who got her degree from Penn State; and Enkerud left Wisconsin last year as the world's first Peanutters - the official name given NUTmobile drivers.
Switching off duties as driver and passenger-navigators (So how's the ride? "Smooth and creamy," Poole explained), they've traveled through 26 states, typically spending a week or so in a city to see the sights and spread the word about Planters and its nutty contraption.
They arrived in the Lowcountry on Monday and will stay here through April 4. Planned stops included Bi-Lo grocery stores in Hanahan and Summerville on Thursday and Friday. Today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., they will be at the 1200 Sam Rittenburg Blvd. Bi-Lo and the same time Sunday at the 860 Folly Road outlet.
"During events, visitors will have the opportunity to meet Mr. Peanut, snap a photo with him and the NUTmobile and try a free sample of Planters peanuts," Enkerud said.
The drivers and wheels also plan to be on hand at a couple of events on days leading up to the April 5 Cooper River Bridge Run.
The trio said they get along well. Escobar said the girls are like sisters. While they all take turns behind the wheel, Poole and Enkerud acknowledge, "Adam gets the tough driving." That's included motoring through narrow streets in New York City and a tight squeeze or two in Charleston's historic district.
For the auto buffs out there, the vehicle can and has run on biofuel, Enkerud said. Meanwhile, the body may look like a waffle-covered hour-glass with a too large mid-drift. but what's underneath passes for a sturdy long-distance carrier. It's a 2011 Isuzu NPR box truck, which has been converted to include solar panels to help preserve power.
"To me, it feels like driving a really long van," Escobar said. "Next to a semi, you realize it's not that long."
To be sure, the peanutters are never far from a quip. Poole described the NUTmobile as energy-efficient. It gets "a thousand smiles per gallon."
During their brief stop on Concord Street, the three drivers spoke about trip highlights thus far while tossing out a few chestnuts (sorry, wrong food group):
Poole discovered she loves boiled peanuts, and the Pennsylvanian said she wants to take the decidedly Charleston treat back up North and start a food sensation there.
Hall of fame:
The NUTmobile traveled to Dothan, Ala., so-called "Peanut Capital of the World," which has 42 nut-related statues to prove it.
In small-town Blakely, Ga., also a self-proclaimed peanut capital, the trio were a big hit, especially after fans found out the NUTmobile had taken part in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Poole said kids will ask if they can eat the NUTmobile.
Planters pun for the road:
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or email@example.com.
The trio strike a pose by the 21-foot-long peanut shell on wheels (Provided).×
The Planters novelty contraption made a stop in Charleston on Wednesday and will be in town until April 4 (Leroy Burnell/Staff 3/26/2014).×
NUTmobile drivers (from left) Enkerud, Escobar and Poole were headed for Oscar Meyer Weinermobile tryouts when they wound up as the first “peanutters,” piloting Planter’s “shell” of a vehicle (Leroy Burnell/Staff 3/26/2014).×
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