Known to his coworkers as “Eddie of the Woods,” Eddie Flaherty is more than just gifted at driving the 13-foot Bootmobile. This Registered Maine Guide leads whitewater rafting adventures, is an avid fly fisherman, and plans on playing semi-pro football when he’s not on the road.
Now that the Bootmobile is about to begin its next tour, we thought it would be great to catch up with Eddie and learn what it’s like behind the wheel.
Where are you from, and how did you end up at L.L.Bean?
I’m originally a “flatlander” from Ohio, but I moved to Baileyville, Maine, in third grade and consider myself to be a full-blood “Mainahhh.” In case you were wondering, Baileyville is in the middle of nowhere – I graduated with 38 people. Then after earning a degree in Outdoor Recreation Business Administration from the University of Maine at Farmington this past May, I now live in Lewiston, Maine. Working for L.L.Bean had always been my goal after graduating college and I couldn’t be happier than to be where I’m sitting (or driving) now.
What is a typical day like for you at Bean?
While my official title is “Bootmobile Driver,” my job includes being a brand ambassador, spokesperson, and a logistical coordinator. One day I may be driving the Bootmobile back from Chicago, and the next I am in the office having a lunch meeting with my team and the L.L.Bean CMO. With the high demand of the Bootmobile and the planning that is involved, our team works seven days a week. Whether it is in the office or on the pavement, we strive to keep the Bootmobile on the road.
What’s it like to drive a boot – did you need special training?
Driving the Bootmobile is certainly different than your everyday ride. Built on a diesel truck, the driving is smooth sailing for the most part. But with the Bootmobile being roughly 13 feet tall, you have to be able to look up while driving in order to avoid branches, wires, and anything that may be a “career-limiting” obstacle.
With its height, blind spots, and wide turning radius, the Bootmobile requires a good amount of time to get used to, and being trained on rural roads certainly helps. Then, once the approval is given, the Bootmobile shifts into drive and away you go.
What are the best parts of your job? The challenges?
The Bootmobile has allowed me to go all over the place, but one of the best parts of my job is seeing the sincerity in people when they come up and start asking questions about the Bootmobile. Once someone asked if they could sleep in the Bootmobile overnight. They apparently wanted to get the full Bootmobile experience and become “one with the shoe.” After multiple attempts to convince us to let it happen, they settled for a few stickers and a keychain.
I’d say that the worst part is listening to the radio on a long trip. A few of the drivers and I play some games to entertain us, but changing stations constantly as you drive can be tough. From the Beatles to Guns ‘n Roses, you never know what you may hear from the speakers of the Bootmobile. I am also a big fan of country, although it only gets played when like minds are in the vehicle (we have a pretty good running joke about “Red Solo Cup”).
Worst Bootmobile pun you’ve heard? Best Bootmobile pun you’ve heard?
My favorite pun (which I coined myself) is “shoenanigans.” Another great one that we use as drivers is “sole-mates” when we drive together.
Batman has the Batmobile; you have the Bootmobile. Since you have a super ride, what kind of superpowers would you have to match it?
While I can’t quite fight crime and take names like Batman, Bootmobile drivers have a few unique attributes that we could call superpowers:
Professional iPhone Photography: Bootmobile drivers are fully trained and are experts in the field of smartphone photography. No matter where we are, we have the innate ability to capture the perfect photo of someone in front of the Bootmobile.
Professional Wrist Endurance: Similar to Miss America and beauty queens alike, Bootmobile drivers have the endurance to wave for extended amounts of time as we make our way through a parade.
Always “On”: Just like superheroes, Bootmobile drivers are always representing the brand. Whether we are at a gas station or at a festival, we represent L.L.Bean and our company philosophies. Luckily for us, we wear our superhero “get ups” at all times.
Do you have a favorite piece of L.L.Bean gear?
Growing up, I always bought cheap rain jackets. They would last a year, leak, and then I would get a new one. Then I got the Ascent Rain Jacket. It battles through any type of rain and is remarkably breathable. My other favorite piece of gear is my Rapid River Vest Pack. I have yet to find a better fly-fishing vest.
What have been your favorite events so far?
After spending most of the summer traveling to major cities during our Outdoor Discovery Tour, my favorite event was at Schenley Plaza in Pittsburgh. We had free instruction for activities such fly casting, stand-up paddle boarding, and kayaking. It was truly remarkable to see people out of their elements and try to fly cast in the middle of Pittsburgh.
Another time, L.L.Bean spent a day at Fenway Park and let sweepstakes winners roam around with free outdoor clinics, Red Sox Legends, and most importantly – free Fenway Franks. While some of my coworkers knew that I had played baseball in college, it was for the most part a little-known fact. After the sweepstakes winners left, my coworkers and I got a chance to take some swings in the visitor batting cage. After seeing a few people take some swings, knick some balls, and fall down swinging, I gave it a try. It was pretty funny hearing everyone cheer me on thinking I had never played baseball before – I think I even impressed the boss.
Favorite little known fact about the Bootmobile? About L.L.Bean?
People always see us backing up and seem to be pretty impressed with our mirror skills – little do they know we have a camera to help us.
But my all-time favorite fact about L.L.Bean comes from the original 100 boots. After Leon Leonwood Bean found out that almost all of them fell apart, he decided that anyone who was not satisfied with their boots got a new pair at no cost to them. This “Satisfaction Guarantee” started then and remains today. It’s remarkable that this simple concept stands true 101 years later and makes L.L.Bean who we are.
If you could go anywhere in the Bootmobile, where would you go?
Japan! We have stores there and seeing the Bootmobile travel halfway across the globe would be something else. I’ve also never been out of North America so the opportunity to see that part of the world would be tremendous. Plus I’ve heard that the roads are narrower, so the Bootmobile would look even bigger than it does on US highways.