PBS series showcases local's love of travel

Chet Garner's love of travel has landed him in some pretty unusual situations. Whether he is dressed up like Benjamin Franklin in Dripping Springs or feeding hot dogs to alligators in Beaumont, Garner's day job is probably not like many others.

Garner's adventures have taken him all over the state of Texas—driving more than 25,000 miles—and have been broadcast on local PBS stations throughout the state. Known to many as The Daytripper, Garner shares his love of his home state and traveling through his half-hour television show of the same name.

"I realized that the things I was doing in my own backyard were often much more fun than the things I had paid over $2,000 for a plane ticket to go see overseas. Certainly, the food was better," he said. "We tend to have a somewhat tilted view of vacation, that vacation is only something that happens if you take a week off of work—you buy a plane ticket and you go somewhere far away. That's completely wrong in my opinion. Because I've done those vacations, and I think these small ones are more fun."

Garner grew up in a small town in Texas and became an attorney before discovering how to make a living with his real passion.

"I grew up traveling Texas, and then I became an attorney and worked downtown [Austin]. They say you either have time or money, but never both," Garner said. "Well, as an attorney I had money but no time so I couldn't go on really long vacations because I didn't have the time."

Garner decided to pick up a camera and put together the pilot for his show. His next mission was to find sponsors who would help pay production costs and get the show on air. PBS picked it up and began airing it as The Austin Daytripper, featuring daylong adventures for people living in and around Austin.

"It struck me that PBS is the perfect medium for this. They don't have to have a national audience, and they can go local," Garner said. "To make things better, they are always looking for good local content to do all the things I wanted to do, which was inspire the community and educate the community. PBS was just the perfect fit."

Later, other towns in and around the state wanted a show featuring day trips from their cities. Garner dropped Austin from the name of the show and extended his show to feature cities and towns throughout the state because "everywhere is a day trip from somewhere," he said.

Garner scouts ideas for each episode with his family, looking for food, an outdoor adventure and some kind of cultural or historical aspect of the city to showcase.

When looking for a place to locate his production company, Georgetown seemed like the perfect fit, he said.

"I was raised in a small town, and so what I wanted was to raise my family in a small town and to be part of a small town," Garner said. "I think you can get a lot more done in a small town than you ever could in a big city because you are connected to the people and you actually have relationships with the people."

In May 2012, he relocated his company to the Square.

"On Daytripper, I've been able to observe so many small towns from the outside that when I had a chance to be part of a small town, I jumped on it," Garner said. "That's what I love so much. I'm not just an observer in Georgetown. I get to be part of it, and that's fun."

Garner said his mission is to get people off the couch to take their own day trips and make their own memories.

"I'm just a normal guy that hopefully they can relate to," he said. "I'm trying to show people what they can do."

Crazy adventure

The Daytripper's Chet Garner may be headquartered on the Square in Georgetown, but his show has taken him on some memorable adventures, he said.

At a gator farm in Beaumont, near the Texas and Louisiana border, Garner was invited by the owner to film in the alligator pond.

"She grabbed some hot dogs and walked out into the middle of her large gator pit," Garner said. "We were standing on this little rinky-dink boardwalk that looked like it could crumble at any moment, with 12-foot alligators around us and she's calling them in with her hand splashing the water and throwing them hot dogs."

Garner said that moment was the most scared he has been while filming.

"She handed me a stick and said, 'If any of them try to jump up on you, just hit them in the nose with the stick,'" Garner said. "I was like, 'What? Are you crazy?'"

Georgetown in the spotlight

After a competition on Facebook, Georgetown was selected to be featured on the Season 4 finale, which is scheduled to air June 20. Host Chet Garner said the crew is planning a viewing party to be held on the Square. For more information and details as they become available, visit www.thedaytripper.com.

The Daytripper, [email protected], www.thedaytripper.com, Twitter: @chettripper