COLUMBUS, Ind. – Dozens of residents from Gov. Mike Pence's Indiana hometown are on a "once-in-a-lifetime" bus trip to the nation's capital to see their former neighbor sworn into office Friday as the vice president of the United States.
"It's almost unreal, knowing that you personally know the vice president," said Barb Hackman, a local Republican official and Pence friend who organized the trip along with the Roving Elephants group.
One of two buses carrying 110 people left rural Columbus, Ind., before sunrise on Wednesday and is scheduled to arrive in D.C. late Wednesday night.
Fox News got to ride along for the first leg of the trip as folks who were still waking up, but excited, tossed their suitcases onto the bus and grabbed a seat.
Most people on the bus know Pence personally or were there as he was first sworn in as a congressman and then governor.
"I couldn't really believe that a congressman would know my name and a governor would know my name, now the vice president knows my name, so that's amazing to me," said Dwayne Hines, who went to high school with Pence.
Pence's neighbors and friends say he has always lived up to his reputation as a well-spoken gentleman.
Andy Perr, one of Pence's childhood neighbors, said the VP-elect likely acquired those attributes through his upbringing.
"Mike grew up in a modest neighborhood, family values, ya’ know, the dad was a disciplinarian, made sure everybody behaved, followed the rules, we all attended the same church together," Perr said. "It's just a good, all-around average background."
Perr said some of his fondest neighborhood memories include playing football in the mud with Pence.
"This was tackle football, this wasn't flag football, so we would come home pretty much banged up and bruised and all that," Perr laughed.
Perr also said that Pence "fancies himself an artist" and was always a skilled drawer.
At a young age, Pence also began developing his public speaking skills, joining the debate team and getting a reputation as a polished orator. Perr says he thinks this experience prepared him for politics and ultimately the VP debate against Democratic nominee Tim Kaine.
"That's probably where he got it from," Perr said.
Pictures from Pence's high school yearbook depict him as an active and involved student. Photos show Pence hosting an awards ceremony and involved with the debate team.
"A leader," Hines described him. "He was always the first one to step up and do something it seemed like, that's what I saw and what I remember of him."
While Pence heads into office as the hometown hero of Columbus, his 2015 signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act seems to be the main topic that has prompted some Hoosiers to split with Pence, over his social conservative views.
Hackman defended Pence. "I know Mike," she said. "There is not a [discriminatory] bone in him. He truly appreciates everyone's view."
Matt Finn is a Fox News correspondent based in the Chicago bureau. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFinnFNC