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Righteous Rigs: The Dawg

Posted by Dave On October - 9 - 2008

As many of you are aware, Browns fans are notorious for being incredibly dedicated to their team. Some might even say they are crazy. Take a look at the video below and you can decide for yourself just how far Cleveland tailgaters will go.

This Righteous Rig is called “The Dawg” and is the creation of Ryan Mayhugh.

Ryan has been a Browns fan his whole life and in 2002 he introduced his wife Neema (at the time she was his fiance) to the Browns tailgating experience. Neema grew up in New York and was a big Giants fan, but pulling into the West 3rd parking lot at 8am in December and seeing it more than half full, she was hooked on the Cleveland tailgating experience. The couple decided to relocate to Cleveland from the NYC area in 2005, but Neema made Ryan promise that they would get Browns season tickets. He sent in the form the following day. Herein lays the first requirement in having a tailgate vehicle like The Dawg van – a wife who loves football and tailgating, and is tolerant of irrational behavior.

van-before.JPGWhen the couple relocated from New York to Cleveland in early 2006, they only had one car. When looking for a second vehicle that they could use for emergencies, Ryan thought he might as well see if they could use it for tailgating. They looked at a few different options on the internet and one morning Ryan found a 1975 Dodge Xplorer van on eBay. It was only a few miles away, so he contacted the owner and took it for a test drive. It ran well, and the owner’s uncle had bought it brand new in 1975 and he still had the owner’s manual and all the repair records. They went home and placed their bid and a few hours later, they were the proud owners for the low price of $1,500.

They bought it in mid-July, and only had a month and a half until the season started. They knew they wanted it to be different – a simple orange and brown paint job wasn’t going to do the trick. So they parked the van in the driveway, invited a bunch of friends over, bought a few cases of beer and started brainstorming. The winning idea was to make it into a furry Dawg (the Browns unofficial mascot). Then everyone went home and Ryan and Neema were left with the hard part – turning the idea into reality.

Ryan looked around online and came across the most wonderful fabric in the world: tangerine colored poodle furry fleece from Jo-Ann fabrics. It happened to be on sale (for some reason it wasn’t flying off the shelves) so they ordered 40 yards of it. They also ordered 10 yards of Browns licensed fleece from Jo-Ann for the ears, tail and collar.

So they had the fur, but didn’t quite know how they were going to keep it attached to the van, which of course, was pretty important. Ryan ended up calling a salesman at Industrial Webbing and told him what they were trying to do. After a brief pause as he tried to digest what was being told him, he asked if they were trying to replicate the Shaggin’ Wagon from the movie “Dumb and Dumber”. That was exactly the perfect description of what they were trying to do. Ryan bought a high grade Velcro that has a strong epoxy on one side that sticks to the van, and the other side is sewn to the fur. It was the perfect product.

dawg-van.JPGNow that the main ingredients were purchased, they started sewing. Ryan’s sister made the tail, ears and sewed the large section of fleece together for the main body. His parents and wife all chipped in on the sewing machine and made the other accessories, like the eyes, tongue, nose and dawg tag. Ryan’s Dad even ordered industrial grade magnets that hold the fur in place near the wheels and the bottom of the doors. After about a month, the van was in good shape and The Dawg was born. Total cost of all materials was in the $300 range.

On the inside, they put up a few posters (including a Bernie Kosar poster that they found at a garage sale during a vacation in Maine) and filled in with pictures and football cards of Browns greats like Jim Brown, Clay Matthews, Brian Sipe, Paul Warfield and LeRoy Kelly. They have made a few improvements since it debuted in the West 3rd lot on September 9, 2006 (wheel covers, large Dawg decals on either side of the body, etc.) but otherwise it has just about everything needed.

dawg-van-2.JPGAfter a great season in 2007, including a 7-1 record at home, the Browns have struggled as of late. Some people wonder how Ryan and his family can dedicate so much time, energy and money to a football team. To be honest, sometimes he wonders that himself. But he never questions it when he is sitting in the parking lot, cooking eggs at 8 am on a cold Sunday morning in the winter and talking about the upcoming game over a breakfast beer. Even if the Browns don’t win, the tailgate is always fantastic when you have ‘The Dawg”.

Righteous Rigs: West Virginia Shaggin Wagon

Posted by Dave On September - 18 - 2008

In our second installment of “Righteous Rigs” comes another tailgating vehicle that you would be hard pressed not to notice when it is either parked or on the way to Milan Puskar Stadium. Nick named “the Shaggin Wagon”, this 1988 Ford E150 Conversion Van has undergone numerous modifications to make it the ultimate tailgating companion in Morgantown, West Virginia.

West Virginia Shaggin Wagon

Steve Sanders, a loyal West Virginia season ticket holder, found it too problematic when it came to loading and unloading all the tailgating equipment from his 2001 F150 pickup. You see, Steve and his wife make the five hour drive every Friday prior to a Mountaineers home game to stay overnight in West Virginia. They then make the additional two and half hour drive to get to Morgantown on game days. Talk about dedication! Logging that many hours and miles on the road, the Sanders decided it was time to get a designated vehicle that was strictly for tailgating.

The Shaggin’ Wagon as it is known today was just an old 1988 Ford E150 Conversion Van with 80,000 miles on it that was sitting for sale outside of a neighbors house. On a whim in 2005, Steve Sanders took a look at it after numerous times passing it and wondering what could be done with it. It had power seats, windows, door locks, CB and even an old TV in there and after $1,800 exchanged hands the Shaggin’ Wagon was about to take shape. Like finding money in your jeans pocket on laundry day, a trip to a mechanic revealed this van was in excellent shape but also came with the ambulance package, which means a heavy duty electrical system.

In 2005 the modifications commenced with the installation of a 600 watt inverter in the off season, a satellite pole out of aluminum that could handle a mounted dish and a 15″ computer monitor. Satellite TV and music was on iPod via a Bose speaker.  Both of these were run off the van’s electrical system via the inverter. The 2005 Mountaineer football season was the first season the van was used for tailgating full time.

Before the 2007 season, the idea to install a dedicated stereo system in the back of the van was born.  An AM/FM/CD/DVD receiver, which is normally used as the radio in a car, was installed and were coupled with the marine speakers (woofers, tweeters, crossovers) in the face of the rear doors. A dedicated AMP and an iPod adapter were installed in the back of the van. The system came with a remote control in order to listen to the live TV, iPod, radio, CD or even play a DVD out to the swing down TV (22″ LCD).  All this runs off of the van’s electrical system with the receiver being driven through the normal DC connection and the DirecTV system. The TV runs off of the 600 watt inverter.

The additional tailgating gear has been added little by little including tables chairs, coolers, etc. to accommodate those friends and family that join the tailgate party. The van got its distinguishing paint design prior to the 2008 season courtesy of Murphy’s Body Shop of Durbin, West Virginia (304-456-4858). The decals were provided by Scott Sign & Design of Shinnston, West Virginia (304-592-1835).

If you are ever in Morgantown on game day, be on the lookout for the Shaggin’ Waggon. It is not hard to miss and with the 2008 tailgating menu already planned out, choose your game wisely before you drop in. Take a peek…

30 Aug – Villanova – Mike Ditka’s Pork Sandwiches

6 Sept – ECU – Steak & Shrimp

27 Sept – Marshall – Buffalo Burgers

4 Oct – Rutgers – Prime Rib Sandwiches

11 Oct – Syracuse – Turkey Burgers

23 Oct – Auburn – Chick Fil a Platter

8 Nov – Cincinnati – Prime Rib Sandwiches

6 Dec – South Florida – Cindi’s Chili

The Shaggin’ Wagon crew has two mottos: “WVU – We’ve never lost a tailgate” and “WVU – Win or Lose.  We booze.” Amen to that!

Here are more photos of the Shaggin’ Wagon. (Click to view full size)


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