It was the end of a whirlwind first day on the campaign trail as Mitt Romney’s running mate — a day that started in front of an early-morning crowd of thousands before the USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, took the GOP ticket to an 8,000-person rally in Manassas and was soon about to wind down at a hotel in Charlotte, N.C.

So how did Paul Ryan feel?

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) speaks after being announced by Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as his vice presidential running mate in front of the USS Wisconsin Aug. 11, 2012 in Norfolk, Va. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

“It’s gone from the surreal to the real,” Ryan told reporters Saturday aboard the Romney campaign plane to Charlotte after the duo’s final event of the day in Virginia.

The House Budget Committee chairman and now GOP vice-presidential nominee made an unexpected appearance with Romney Saturday night in the media section of the plane along with a cameo by one of Romney’s granddaughters, Chloe.

Holding their first impromptu news availability as newly-minted running mates, Romney and Ryan even appeared to have dressed the part — both were clad in white shirts, dark pants and no ties — and seemed to have an easy rapport as they fielded questions from a bevy of reporters for about eight minutes.

Ryan said that he was “very humbled” to have been tapped by Romney for the No. 2 spot.

“It was the biggest honor I’ve ever been given in my life,” he said. “I love this country dearly, and I feel like we have in opportunity to fix things once and for all.”

Both said they were “amazed” by the energy of supporters in Virginia and that they were looking forward to having a “two-on-two” battle against President Obama and Vice President Biden instead of a “one-on-two.”

“It’s nice,” Romney said. “Glad to be onstage, to have someone else who’s up there fighting and taking the message to the people. And you saw the response of our crowds — very excited to meet Paul Ryan, to get to know him. A lot of them know him pretty well already by virtue of the things he’s been fighting for.”

With Ryan standing by his side, Romney cast the race as one focused on big ideas rather than on small day-to-day fights.

“For us, this is a campaign of ideas and a direction for America; what’s America going to be?” he said. “What kind of nation are we going to be? How are we going to help people across this country have a better future?”

Asked about his first day on the trail, Ryan said he and his family were “excited with the outpouring of support” — and then, to punctuate the point, unholstered his BlackBerry and held it up for the gaggle of reporters.

“This thing is about to get short-circuited,” he said with a laugh. “I can’t even get through a third of these e-mails from just my colleagues in Congress, friends that I’ve been working with over the years.”

A few moments later, Romney, Ryan and Romney’s granddaughter returned to their seats at the front of the plane.

The new running mates and their families remained out of sight from the media for the rest of the flight, but not entirely out of earshot: as the plane prepared to touch down in the Tarheel State, those up front could be heard breaking out into a round of applause.