Jim Caple braves South Carolina's tailgating scene

Fri, Sep 17
3:00
PM ET


COLUMBIA, S.C. -- You can transport yourself into a wondrous world of romance and golden age luxury by purchasing a ticket on the Orient Express. For fares ranging from $950 to $10,000, you can sip champagne, dress for formal dinners and pretend you are titled royalty, an A-list movie star or a secret agent while you journey to some of Europe's most famous cities aboard a train whose very name has inspired novels, films and countless fantasies of travel.

Or you can tailgate in Bill and Laura Rentz's Cockaboose.

First off, they decorated the interior of the old train caboose -- at an estimated cost of $75,000 to $100,000 ("And that's 1990 dollars," Laura specified) -- to resemble a dark, wood-paneled and richly upholstered Orient Express railcar. And while you can't travel to Paris, Rome or Vienna, you won't want to. That's because the Cockaboose already is permanently fixed in a location even more exotic, intriguing and enjoyable than Venice or Istanbul: a mere down-and-out pass outside Williams-Brice Stadium, the football home of the South Carolina Gamecocks.

The only murder on this Orient Express is if they accidentally kill you with hospitality.

"We have just had a ball here," Bill Rentz said, showing me a brass-hinged, mahogany pull-down bed. "We could sleep here, but we don't do it much -- only one time for a Florida game. We just love to party here at the University of South Carolina. "We have had more fun here in the Cockabooses than the law allows."

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