Chet is ‘Monty Python meets Rand-McNally’

Mike Brown

Confession. I like stuff that is either really excellent or really off-the-wall. And every once in a while I find the two combined and then, well let me introduce you.

Chet Garner is the host of “The Daytripper,” a half-hour television series on Texas PBS.

No, that’s too mild. Chet is “The Daytripper,” which you would have to classify as a travel show.

That’s also too mild. “The Daytripper” is sort of Monty Python meets Rand-McNally.

What do I mean? Well, the show about LaGrange opens with Chet dressed as Dolly Parton.

He’s been an alien in Marfa, Elvis Presley in Killeen, Sam Houston in Huntsville, the White Ghost Lady in Jefferson and his impersonation of our neighboring county’s namesake Robert McAlpin “Three-Legged Willie” Williamson was enough to make me detour trips to Austin through Bastrop County for two months.

Chet, as Chet, the role he plays the best on all his day trips around the Lone Star state. Chet, as Chet, the role he plays the best on all his day trips around the Lone Star state. Premise of the show is for Chet to take us to different Texas venues and show us what we can do there in one day.

But each show also includes two traditions. Chet will find two, sometimes three, places to chow down, with an emphasis on barbecue. Why he doesn’t weigh at least 300 pounds may be a topic for a future show on a medical network.

And then there’s, well, Chet being Chet, relentlessly cheerful, eager to learn about the new place he’s visiting and maybe just a little bit of a ham.

Okay, more than a little bit.

It can be a little jarring at first. My 18-year- old step- daughter, whose life mostly consists of being cool, saw the LaGrange episode come on. Chet appeared dressed as Dolly Parton and she—Kayla not Dolly—made eye contact with me and dramatically rolled her eyes as if to say “ohhhkay, exactly what is this we’re watching?”

Art by Briana Bailey, a sophomore at Rockdale High School. Art by Briana Bailey, a sophomore at Rockdale High School. I’ve seen enough Daytrippers to be able to answer that. What we’re seeing is a guy who loves Texas. I mean really loves it.

That passion started as a kid. Chet remembers his family’s road trips. They’d take the back seat out of his dad’s Suburban, pile in luggage, toss a mattress on top and put the Garner kids up on the mattress.

(My wife’s family did exactly the same thing in those “whatthe heck-were-we- thinking?” pre-safety knowledge days.)

At age eight he got his hands on his grandfather’s video camera and began making movies behind his house. “It was mainly just an excuse to smear fake blood on people and have elaborate death scenes,” he said.

Chet grew up and continued his love of travel. He recalled that he had the time but not the money to see Texas like he wanted.

He got a degree, in film, from UT then went on to Baylor Law School, graduating first in his class.

Now he had the money to see our state, but not the time. So he started to day trip. One day, he told Tribeza.Com magazine, he was at Barton Springs, basking under the Texas sun and realized “it doesn’t get any better than this.”

“ The Daytripper” was born. And are we glad. We’re also glad Chet decided to inject his personality into every program. That’s the extra pepper in the salsa which lifts the show from being just another travelogue to something special.

“I’m a little nutty,” he told Austin Monthly (a little?—MB). I’m a foodie. I get dorky about history. I love traveling and I really love jumping into swimming holes. I believe the best baptisms happen in Texas swimming holes.”

Oh, can I relate to that! Somewhere in a closet is a map of Texas with about 200 of our counties colored in. It was once my goal to visit all 254. Haven’t made it yet—have you ever tried to get to Loving County?—but maybe I’ll still do it.

So, Chet doesn’t know it but he and I are fellow travelers. Pun intended. I think.

Chet created the concept, and it’s a good thing. I can’t imagine a bunch of network executives sitting around a table going “hey, let’s show people how much fun it is to go to Waco!”

But, at its core, it’s just plain good-hearted. “The Daytripper” says to Texans “we live in a great place, get out and see it. It has more to offer than you know even if you’ve lived here all your life.”

Like me. So, thanks Chet. Save me a rib. Or a kolache. Or an enchilada.

Better still, keep showing me the western wear shop, the canoe ride, the book store, the top of Guadalupe Peak, the swimming holes, the museums and the magic places.

And if you want to run around dressed like Dolly Parton, I’ll do my best to explain it to my kids.

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