The weenie bite is a delicate art.
It seems like a simple task, initially. Teams of two slow ride their motorcycle under the weenie, which is dangling from a pole by a string. The driver (usually a man) has to get the bike going as slowly and smoothly as possible, so the biter (usually a woman) can stretch up from the back seat and bite off as much of the hot dog as possible.
But the process is full of pitfalls. If the biter hits the ground with her foot: disqualified. If she uses her hands: disqualified.
Immediately after a successful bite, competitors spit out their dog into the waiting, surgical-gloved hand of a contest attendant, who studiously measures the partial Frankfurter.
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“Three inches!” Buster Brown, the contest emcee in a cowboy hat and boots with spurs, yells out after the measure of a bite by a woman with a bandana-covered head and a pink tank top.
It’s the best bite so far as the contest plays out on Thursday evening at The Rat Hole, a biker bar at 3833 Socastee Blvd., which is milling with attendees of the spring Harley-Davidson bike week rally that has consumed much of the south side of the Grand Strand. Removed from the constant crush of leather-clad bodies in Murrells Inlet spots like Beaver Bar or Suck Bang Blow, visitors to The Rat Hole are laid back, placidly enjoying the show, snacking on barbeque or sipping a beer nearby.
The motorcycle rodeo ritual is difficult, and several aspiring biters were left without even a nibble, as wet dogs and warm condiments slid across their searching faces. Each weenie is dipped before the bite: in ketchup, mayonnaise or mustard.
“We do allow licking at the ride off,” Brown proclaims after one unsuccessful pass.
A few more pairs pass. Nobody has touched the three-inch record for the day. One driver rides under the weenie entirely too fast.
“Men slow down! Jeez,” Brown says. “How’d you like to have a weenie upside your head in third gear?”
The gathered crowd howls their appreciation.
Then Hope Plank and her husband, Greg, pull up. The couple has been coming to the area for rallies in the spring and fall from the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania area since 2004.
Plank has already won other rodeo events on Thursday. During her pass, she stretches upward and expertly takes a bite.
“Three and three-quarter inches!” Brown yells.
Plank is again the winner for the day. In conversation with The Sun News after the weenie bite, Plank finds out she’s the “Top Cowgirl” on Thursday, having won the most events.
Her favorite? The waitress carry, which requires standing on the back of a bike and balancing a tray with full water glasses while her husband maneuvers around barrels.
“It takes the most skill,” Plank, who is an in-home adult caretaker back in Pennsylvania, said.
She and her husband will venture away from The Rat Hole with their two kids (who were not present at the bar) throughout the week, visiting the beach or attractions like the Waccatee Zoo. The twice-yearly rallies have become reunions with friends accumulated from earlier visits, and as time passed, their friends’ kids as well.
But on Thursday, Plank was the weenie bite champion.
What’s the secret to a perfect bite?
“Not having a gag reflex,” she said. “Or what’s a nicer way of saying that? I guess getting over the taste of the condiments.”
Plank opted for ketchup on Thursday.
“I can’t get over the whole mustard thing,” she said. “It’s too tangy for me.”