Finding joie de vivre in a Winnebago
Sen. Mike Bennett climbed into Rep. Ron Reagan's living room, which is not that much different from the kitchen or the bedroom, took a look around and laughed.
"I just came out to see the trash," Bennett said.
It was a term of affection, of course, Monday night being the 6th annual "trailer trash" gathering in the piney woods outside Tallahassee. The RV Caucus, which convenes here every March and April, hosted 50 or so guests for an evening of barbecue, drink and good-natured stereotyping.
"There's so little fellowship because of that lobbyist bill," said Rep. Stan Jordan, an 8-year resident of Tallahassee RV Park, 8 miles east of the Capitol. Everyone paid $5 for food and alcohol was extra, Jordon explained, washing down dinner with unsweet tea and lemon.
"They dip them in French onion soup," he said of the hot dog. "They're so moist.
Waylon Jennings and Charlie Daniels sang on the PA. A white-bearded Elvis impersonator walked out to serenade the ladies. Bennett grabbed his wife by the hand and spun her around to Can't Help Falling In Love.
The Caucus consists of eight Republicans: Reagan of Bradenton; Jordan of Jacksonville; Gayle Harrell of Stuart; Don Brown of De Funiak Springs; Dennis Ross of Lakeland; Charlie Dean of Inverness; Larry Cretul of Ocala; and Ralph Poppell of Vero Beach.
"We tell everyone we don't look down on you, even if you're better than we are," Poppell said, wearing a plaid cowboy shirt.
To these lawmakers, an RV is more comfortable than renting an apartment, more practical than buying a home or condo in Tallahassee. "Look at this place," Reagan said, showing a visitor his 38-foot Winnebago Adventurer. "I've got everything I need."
"You can't beat it," he said.
But Reagan's RV, which retailed for about $140,000, seems old hat to him now. He was lustfully eying the Fleetwood Discovery show model brought in for the night. It goes for more than $200,000, plasma TVs not included.
"If my wife would go along with it, I'd love an RV," said Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Lutz, a spoonful of cole slaw in his left hand, a chili dog with mustard and ketchup in the right. "But her idea of roughing it is a Holiday Inn."
For previous Times coverage of the event, click here.