INDIANAPOLIS – When Gov. Mitch Daniels stepped into his RV headquarters Wednesday for a final trip, he smiled and said, "Home sweet home."
He and a small crew of dedicated staffers drove the vehicle to every corner of the state during his historic 2004 campaign. It was hauled out again in 2008, though to a lesser extent.
With more than 100,000 miles on it and a load of signatures from Hoosiers, Daniels said Wednesday it came to stand for something more than a means of travel.
"This is everybody's government," he said. "Everywhere matters."
Daniels said he felt somebody ought to put the personal contact back into politics, which led to the stroke of genius that turned into RV-1. The travels of the RV even got its own campaign reality show.
The RV was brought out of retirement – it's been sitting in a barn for four years – for a last voyage up U.S. 31 Wednesday as the governor's term draws to a close in early January.
The vehicle has been donated to the Indiana State Museum, but will be on display at the RV Hall of Fame in Elkhart.
The RV has a curious smell and is a bit threadbare, not to mention the various dings on the outside.
It wasn't used for weekend listening tours, Daniels said. It was a true mobile campaign headquarters nearly every day for 16 months.
The governor took along four important people for the final trip. The first was the RV's original driver, Fort Wayne native Ben Ledo, who has since moved to a career in business. Then there was Adam Horst, who largely drove the chase car back then and is now the state budget director.
He and Ledo slept on the RV from time to time while Daniels stayed in Hoosiers' homes.
Next up was then-campaign manager Bill Oesterle, whom Daniels credited with being the brain behind the RV. And current Republican Party State Chairman Eric Holcomb back then was organizing people all over the state for "My Man Mitch."
Daniels reminisced a bit – including the time the RV got stuck in the parking lot at the Montgomery County Courthouse until he and Horst moved a Dumpster to get it out.
Or there was the time Horst was allowed to drive, and he promptly took it under an overpass and tore off the air conditioner.
And when the awning was damaged, Daniels and Ledo tore it off and left it in a ditch and raced on. (A campaign volunteer later came to retrieve it.)
"We think it's got a hundred miles or so left in it," Daniels said. "We're about to find out."