They have spent from $10,000 to $30,000 turning a couple of ambulances and one bookmobile into tricked-out UW, WSU and Seahawks fanmobiles. They don’t have a deep philosophical explanation. They’re fans, you know?
In the world of sports fans, there are those who nervously wait for kickoff in their living room, that 55-inch flat screen with the super-duper soundbox adjusted just right.
On this Apple Cup weekend, you want to know about a more outgoing fan? Here are three of them.
Meet Paul Kriegel, 71, of Stanwood, a retired farm-forest manager.
He spent $30,000 to turn an old rural bookmobile on a 1966 International truck into the venerable “Woofmobile,” seen parked in all its purple-and-gold glory outside the stadium at just about every Husky football home game since 1991. That’s 26 years of ultimate fandom at 3 miles to the gallon.
Meet Paul Twibell, 50, of Seattle, a nurse.
He has spent $11,000 since 2015 turning a 2000 Ford E450 ambulance into a WSU “Cougulance.” You get unexpected costs when buying an ambulance that had its working days on Seattle streets. Like $5,000 for transmission repair.
Meet Phil Abbess, 42, of Seattle, a public accountant.
He has spent $10,000 since 2008 on a 1995 Ford Econoline E350 that had started its life as an ambulance for the Shelton Fire Department.
A front engine fix, a few of the usual costs when buying a used ambulance, plus the snazzy vinyl car wrap turned it into a “12thManbulance/Dawgulance,” with Seahawks signage on one side, UW Huskies on the other.
You ask these superfans why they do it all, and there’s no deep philosophical explanation. It just sounded like something neat. It’s not Plato who gets quoted with football fans, but John Madden.
Let’s begin with the local senior member of tricked-out vehicles.
Kriegel, a 1978 UW forestry grad, used to go to Husky games with friends. At one point he was buying 14 tickets for the various couples who went together, which came out to about $2,000 a couple for the season.
These days it’s down to 12 tickets. “Old age and health problems, walking up and down those stairs,” says Kriegel. “And night games, they’re killing us. We don’t get home until 1:30” in the morning.
Originally, Kriegel’s plan was to get a used bus so everybody could go to the games together. A buddy of his called him about a bookmobile up for auction. He got it for $800.
But when it comes to the cost of fanmobiles, it’s never about the original price.
The thing was basically gutted inside. In went bench seats. In went gold carpet on the walls, purple carpet on the floor, purple and gold paint on the outside, plus a huge sketch of a Husky dog.
Kriegel did keep the original old pencil sharpener attached to the wall, not to mention the monster steering wheel.
“It’s a chore driving back and forth,” he says. “The way it handles, if you don’t hold the steering wheel the whole time, it’ll start turning by itself. It’s not like driving a car.”
The Woofmobile has been for sale ($15,000) for the past three years. There’s been some interest, but no real potential buyers have stepped up.
Time to pass it on to the next generation, says Kriegel.
Plenty of fun times to be had.
Kriegel puts on a large, purple apron. It’s been made from 29 Crown Royal whiskey bags, which come in purple and gold. At one point, the group had collected 300 such bags. There is a designated driver.
Twibell is the nurse with the Cougulance. He has a degree from WSU in broadcast journalism.
“I decided I wanted a bigger paycheck,” he says, and off he was to nursing school at Grays Harbor College.
But Twibell is a loyal Cougar fan, and he had been thinking about buying an RV for trips back to Pullman. Then the company he works for was auctioning off an ambulance.
He got it for $1,000, before the inevitable charges piled up.
Still, no regrets.
Twibell has a double-size futon in the ambulance, a small portable toilet, a toaster oven, a camping stove, and a flat-screen TV.
The Cougulance gets 10 miles to the gallon, but Twibell drives it to Pullman only at the beginning of the season, parks it there and makes the trek to the games with friends or in his car. In Pullman, he sleeps in the ambulance.
He’ll be at the north parking lot for the Apple Cup, at a Cougar pregame party.
Then, you too can ask him the two questions everybody else has:
The IV drips hanging from the ambulance ceiling — they’re filled with a clear liquid. It’s water, not vodka or gin, he explains.
And yes, the siren still works.
“I don’t care whether a boy is 5 or 59, they all want to blow the siren off,” he says.
Phil Abbess is the accountant with the ambulance. He was a Western Washington University undergrad and started his master’s in taxation at the UW.
He grew up in Bellingham, and, he says, “Just living in the Northwest, all your high-school buddies are Husky fans.”
It all seems to start with some buddies talking, as was the case with Abbess’ circle of friends.
First they talked about getting a school bus to travel together to games. Then a hearse. Then came the ambulance idea.
Being that it’s for both Husky and Seahawks fans, each team got one side of the 1995 Econoline.
Inside are the usual football accouterments, a couple of 50-inch TVs, coolers, a generator.
Is the time and effort worth it?
The group’s Facebook page shows people barbecuing, holding plastic cups, smiling.
A Sept. 17 photo shows five of them grinning for the camera, the guy in the middle being quite a bit taller than the others.
Says the caption, “Detlef stopped by for a cold one this morning. Go Hawks!”
Yes, that Detlef Schrempf, the Husky and NBA all-star. That fanbulance is a magnet, for sure.