The Power of Place: The Daytripper with Chet Gardner


There aren’t enough television shows that make good use of the banjo in their opening song, but The Daytripper with Chet Gardner definitely does. Daytripper plays on Texas PBS, and it features Chet and his crew taking daytrips to all kinds of towns in Texas. Along the way, you get Texas history facts, dad jokes, and some really good food recommendations. Daytripper is very enjoyable, even if you’re not anywhere close to Texas.

Daytripper episodes are just under 30 minutes long, and they’re as full as a Texas breakfast taco. Chet is an entertaining host who is always wearing a great hat and is not unwilling to make an episode funnier with a goofy costume. He seems to love all foods and he’s good at engaging the people wherever he is. He always brings in some history, visiting a local museum or showcasing the old downtown. And you often get a few minutes of the crew in the car, enjoying some camaraderie and offering up some good banter. The show is fun for adults, but it’s very family friendly and appropriate for all ages.

Several things make Daytripper a special show. It really treats towns of all sizes as special. Sometimes they visit somewhere fairly famous with a lot of food options, sometimes they visit somewhere small with only one or two restaurants. You get to see barbecue places you’ve heard of and those you haven’t. They aren’t afraid to get off the beaten track or beyond the Texas stereotypes. Sure, you get an episode on the Texas State Fair, but the same season also features one on the town of Schulenberg. In the Schulenberg episode, “Chet explores the ‘Painted Churches of Texas’ and dives into the German and Czech history of Central Texas with stops to a sausage maker, polka museum and Texas dance hall serving hot schnitzel. He also visits the Stanzel Model Aircraft Museum honoring the iconic company that made model planes right in town.” You’re just not going to see a polka museum or a model aircraft museum on a lot of other shows. And it’s all honoring, not ironic.

Daytripper reminds people that you don’t have to go far to see something new. Even small towns have a special local food or watering hole. Every place has history. And it’s fun to swim in a new lake. It’s good to kayak a new river or hike a new hill. Wherever you are, your own state has plenty to see. There’s a good chance that within a day’s drive is something new to you. Americans of all types embrace the national parks. And there are many Americans who seek to “see America first” when it comes to travel—because there really is so much to see. But it’s also true that sometimes we should see our state first.

And we can benefit from prioritizing our own state. For one thing, we can develop some more state pride. We can also improve our sense of place. Many Americans are increasingly transient, and sometimes we settle down without really knowing much about where we are. But knowing and caring are linked, so learning more about our state can help us better care for it. It’s also true that state politics and legislation can have a pretty significant impact on our lives. All too often we cast those ballots without enough consideration. And we often know as little about a city an hour away as we do about a city in another time zone. How can we vote for the good of our whole state if we know nothing of our neighbors?

A fun daytrip can also be easier than out-of-state-travel. Sometimes you’re home for bed. You don’t have to wait for airport security. You can also wander a bit if you’re somewhere without a long list of “must-see” spots. A daytrip can certainly be gentler on the wallet.

Most of us are pretty entrenched in our routines. Much of our time is scheduled, and we often end up at the same places. We go to the same restaurants, same parks, same airport on our way out of town. It’s easy to end up in a rut. Chet Gardner has the benefit of Daytripper to keep him exploring, but all of us can come up with excuses to get out and see more of our home states. It’s kind of shocking how motivating a goal, or a project, or a side quest can be. Sometimes all we need is a list, or a blog, or a new camera to get us out there. It’s worth coming up with something like that to keep us aware of our surroundings. And it doesn’t hurt to be actively entertaining yourself rather than passively receiving entertainment.

If a daytrip is too chill for you and you also want to stay closer to home, you might consider what Alastair Humphreys calls “microadventures.” He defines a microadventure as “an adventure that is short, simple, local, cheap–yet still fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding.” Humphreys has been a National Geographic Explorer of the Year, and he has biked around the world, but he recommends all kinds of basically backyard adventures. What if you biked or walked a route you normally drive? What if you did a monthly tree climb? Where could you camp out within 15 minutes of your house? What if you spent the night in a hammock in your own yard? What if you cooked all of your meals outdoors for a weekend? You don’t have to hike the Appalachian Trail or travel to a distant mountain range. There are plenty of ideas for short-term adventures of all difficulty levels. You can read Humphreys’ blog or order his microadventures book.

At the end of the day, it’s good to explore our surroundings, and we can all use some inspiration to help us do so. Daytripper always ends with Chet saying “via con Dios amigos.” As viewers, we can go with Chet and the crew a bit, too. If you’re in Texas, you can find Daytripper on PBS. If you’re somewhere else, you can find it on Youtube. There are over 700 videos, so you don’t have to pace yourself too much. Texans are famous for having state pride. Daytripper can help build or sustain your love of Texas, but you can also use it to inspire some state pride and some daytrip adventures for wherever you are.

Image credit: “View of West Texas Ranch” via Wikimedia Commons


  1. Interesting. We have a similar show in Michigan (on PBS) called “Under the Radar Michigan.” Restaurants, natural features, festivals, towns, etc. all fall under the purview of goofy host, Tom Dalden.

  2. Good piece, Elizabeth. I do a lot of day-tripping in Western Pa. and Eastern Ohio. I’ll have to check if there are any shows like this for these environs.

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