Clinton goes on campaign trail in 'Scooby' van

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - As a private citizen, Hillary Clinton flew on private jets to lucrative speaking engagements. As a Democratic presidential candidate, she is logging her first 1,000 miles in a GMC van nicknamed "Scooby."

Clinton's decision to drive, rather than fly, 16 hours to her first campaign appearance in Iowa set off a scramble by national media outlets to track her down one day after she announced her second White House bid through an online video.

CNN reported that she was spotted at a gas station in Pennsylvania on Sunday. On Monday, a local TV station in Toledo, Ohio, reported that she ordered the chicken bowl with guacamole at a nearby Chipotle restaurant.

Outside Chicago, media trucks staked out a quiet residential block in suburban Park Ridge with hopes that Clinton might stop by her childhood home.

It was the latest game of cat and mouse for a public figure who has had a prickly relationship with the news media since she first became a national figure as the wife of then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, who was elected president in 1992.

Clinton's aides are seeking a low-key campaign rollout to avoid the perception of entitlement that hampered her failed 2008 bid. Her first events on Tuesday and Wednesday in Iowa, the state where the 2016 presidential nominating contests begin, will be roundtables with small groups of voters.

Aides said the trip was Clinton's idea, and that they were not sure they were going to make it public until CNN received a tip from someone who spotted her in Pennsylvania.

By then, the news was out. Clinton posted a photo on Twitter showing her posing with an unnamed family. "Many more to come," she wrote.

She has not posted another update since, and campaign aides have declined to provide updates on her progress.

As the First Lady in the 1990s, Clinton flew on Air Force One and travelled in motorcades. As a globe-hopping secretary of state under President Barack Obama, she typically had a customised Boeing 757 at her command.

After stepping down in 2013, she travelled by private jet to deliver speeches that paid more than US$200,000 (S$145,510) apiece.

Now Clinton is travelling with two close aides, Huma Abedin and Nick Merrill, in the black conversion van that has shuttled her to work for the past several years. Bill Clinton is not on the trip, his spokesman, Craig Minassian, said.

The Secret Service typically handles the driving; Clinton hasn't driven herself since 1996. Additional security are accompanying her in one or two other vehicles, aides said.

Clinton has nicknamed the van "Scooby," staffers say, in a reference to the vehicle driven by the crime-fighting troupe in the 1970s cartoon "Scooby Doo."