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‘Daytripper’ Chet Garner talks about Denton bus tour

Posted 3:15pm on Wednesday, May. 01, 2013

A few months ago, we talked to Chet Garner, host of the PBS Texas-travel show The Daytripper With Chet Garner, in advance of a Denton episode of the show that aired in November (Daytripper airs at 10:30 a.m. Saturdays on KERA/Channel 13).

In the episode, Garner visited not just some Denton hangouts, but also Babe’s in Roanoke and Texas Motor Speedway, where he got a brief lesson with the Team Texas High Performance Driving School. In case you missed it, here’s a brief sampler.

On Saturday, May 4, Garner will re-create the Denton episode -- or most of it, anyway -- but not for the cameras. He’s bringing a few fans along for a “Denton Bus Tour” that will hit the highlights of his Denton County visit.

This isn’t the Daytripper’s first bus tour, but it’s the first not to be tied into a membership drive from a nearby PBS station. And it hasn’t been promoted during the show; Garner is after the hardcore fans who visit the Daytripper website and follow him on social media (as of this writing, there were a small amount -- very small -- of tickets left; check out the show’s Facebook page for updates).

“There was constant feedback: ‘Hey, that looks like so much fun, we want to go out on the road with you,’ ” Garner says. “Of course, when you’re filming, it’s crazy. ... So we decided to create these tours or experiences, where we basically get a charter bus and re-create the experience for people. There are no cameras involved; we’re not filming an episode; we’re just having a good time.”

There will be some small changes from the episode; for instance, the people on the bus won’t get a NASCAR-level driving lesson at TMS, but they will get rides in a NASCAR limousine that goes around the track at 70 or 80 mph.

In Denton, though, there will be visits to all the stops in the episode, including Beth Marie’s Old-Fashioned Ice Cream and Rooster’s Roadhouse, where Garner took on the ghost-chile-smothered Hell Burger -- a decision he has said he regrets. But if people on the tour want to try it, they’ll get the chance.

The Daytripper, which is based in Austin, doesn’t get any financing from PBS, so the $99-a-seat bus tour is a way of supporting the show. Previous tours have taken place around Austin and Houston; the Denton trip is the first in a plan to expand the bus tours to four a year.

“I think the Denton [episode] was just a really varied day trip,” Garner says. “It had a lot of fun components to it, and we got a lot of really positive feedback from it. So we thought, ‘Well, let’s do [a tour] for the Dallas folks.’ We needed to pick something that people from the Metroplex maybe hadn’t visited before. And we’d had a lot of feedback from Dallas viewers: ‘Oh, that’s in Denton? I didn’t know Denton was fun.’ ”

Every Daytripper episode features a dining segment or three in which Garner chows down on local food, as he did at Babe’s, Beth Marie’s and Rooster’s Roadhouse during the Denton episode. There’s been such response to those segments that Garner is adding a spinoff, FoodfinderTX, a series tentatively set to debut in July (KERA program director Bill Young says the station will carry it).

“You can write about the most significant local event that ever happened [in a town],” Garner says, “or you can write about a whopping plate of beef enchiladas, and people are going to talk more about the enchiladas. With The Daytripper, we were so tied to a particular place and needed to do so much -- outdoors, history, culture -- that we couldn’t dive in maybe as much as these food items deserved.”

Garner says FoodfinderTX will focus on meals that use Texas-grown ingredients or have a Texas history. Topics will include Ruby Red grapefruits grown in the Rio Grande Valley, Galveston Bay oysters, bison, even craft beer.

“Daytripper is never going to be a food show,” Garner says. “It’s about a full daytrip experience. So this gives us the opportunity to talk about the food more.”

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