My First NASCAR day trip

It’s even louder than I expected.  Like earth-shaking, bomb-exploding loud.  And the cars go faster than I expected.  Like paint-peeling, motion-blurring fast.  But most of all, it’s way more fun than I expected.  Fun in a – I might be changed forever thanks Ricky Bobby – sort of way. Just watch this clip (make sure your volume is up).

Truth be told, I’ve never been a NASCAR fan. But I’ve always heard that in order to understand it, you have to see it (and hear it) in person.  So, when Chevy called and invited Laura (my wife) and I up to Fort Worth to see a NASCAR race at the Texas Motor Speedway, I couldn’t pass it up.  And on a Sunday Morning in April, we headed north for the midday race.

This is the Silverado they loaned us to drive.  A 2500 HD “High Country” edition. It was epic.

When we arrived we joined a group of Chevy Truck Legends. Basically, if you’ve driven a Chevy truck over 100,000 miles or owned multiple Chevy Trucks, you can be part of this group and be eligible for once-in-a-lifetime experiences. All the folks in this photo were picked to have a NASCAR experience.  I’m the goofball in the back with my hands up. If you’re eligible – make sure you sign up.

Chevrolet Truck Legends Event Sunday, April 9, 2017 prior to the start of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Susan DeVault/HHP for Chevrolet)

As soon as we arrived at the track, we were whisked away for a tour of pit row and the garage bays.

Some of the truckloads of tires waiting to be shredded on the track.

Chase Elliott’s car going through pre-race inspection.

The Chevy SS pace car.

After the tour was the most incredible part.  We were all taken onto the track before the race and loaded up into a black Chevy truck.  Soon, an actual NASCAR driver hopped into the bed and we set off as part of the driver parade. It was insane! I felt like everyone was cheering for me, but then realized they were just cheering for my cargo – driver Jeff Earnhardt.

The Midnight Edition Silverado 2500 that we drove around the track. (Photo by Susan DeVault/HHP for Chevrolet)

Laura catches the breeze.

Jeff Earnhardt waves to thousands of adoring fans.

Then came the actual race.  It was an experience for sure.  Laura and I spent our time going back and forth from the suite to the stands. Rather than just watch cars go around in circles, you can rent headsets and listen to the radios from every driver.  You get to hear the drivers and pit crews chat about strategy, when it’s time to change tires, and/or talk smack on others when they get cut off.

How does this thing work?

A good day for racin’.

All in all, this was an insanely fun day. Chevy-driver Jimmie Johnson took home the trophy, but we had the best time.  Even if you aren’t a NASCAR fan, you’ve gotta go and experience a race in person.  I might be hooked.  But even more surprising – my wife might be hooked.  If you register for the Truck Legends program, maybe you’ll hit the track with me for the next race, cause I’ll never miss one.  Huge thanks to Chevy for the invitation.  Vaya con Dios Amigo.  And remember – “If you’re not first, you’re last.” – Ricky Bobby.

#QueBrewTexas WINNERS

To celebrate Texas Independence Day (March 2nd) we partnered up with Rudy’s Bar-B-Q and Lone Star Beer for a Texas-sized contest. We asked you guys to be your MOST TEXAN and/or to have your MOST TEXAN MEAL ever. Well we went through TONS of entries. And here are the winners.

FIRST PLACE

Winner of a full Rudy’s Brisket from Rudy’s Anywhere and Lone Star BBQ set.

Jim Davidson – Chicken Fried Texas

Happy Texas Independence Day! #quebrewtexas

A post shared by Jim Davidson (@jdiscraft) on

REASON: We really liked Jim’s combination of chicken fried steak (invented in Texas), jalapenos (our state pepper), pecan pie (our state dessert made with our state nut) and the Official National Beer of Texas! Pass me a fork Jim, because I want a bite.

SECOND PLACE:

Winner of a $20 Rudy’s gift card and Lone Star hat.

Dennis Bosquez – Mr. Tats

REASON: These fajitas and bacon-wrapped peppers look amazing. And we can only assume this guy got his custom “Lone Star” tattoo just for our contest. OK, probably not, but it shows a permanent commitment to the Lone Star State that rivals even our own. 😊

 

THIRD PLACE:

Winners of a shaker of Rudy’s rub and a Lone Star bandana. OK – we couldn’t pick just one, so we picked four.  Enjoy.

Laura Chapman – Frito Pie, Sheet Cake, and Hay

REASON – We like the idea that Laura is eating this meal on hay. That makes for a dang good dining room table. There’s also a great combo of Texas food – frito pie, Texas sheet cake and my favorite BBQ dessert – banana pudding.

Susie Hampe Hagedorn – Flags over Lunch

REASON: Check out this spread. The 1824 flag, blue bell, beer, and Whataburger. Extra points because she’s using the spicy ketchup.

Jerrod Whitman – El Senor Texas

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRJ4FAOjBKXhW4a9biYzru_49Turo_8758RicQ0/

REASON: This guy has the full backyard spread. He’s not eating anything, but his shirt says “TACOS” so we’ll count it. But the flag, the music, the beer. He’s the real deal.

Aaron Haley – BBQ and BEER, need we say more.

How do you do #texasindependenceday up right?! @brownsbbq_atx and a @lonestarbeer #quebrewtexas #bbq #beer #Austin

A post shared by Aaron Haley (@austinfoodguy) on

REASON: This drool-worthy shot has two of my favorite things – BBQ and beer. And that makes Aaron a winner — in contest and in life.

 

We Won an EMMY!!

This past Saturday night in Fort Worth, Chet Garner won the 2016 Lone Star Emmy Award for Outstanding Program Host / Moderator / Reporter. It is the show’s 7th Lone Star Emmy, and Chet’s 3rd win in this category. We are incredibly excited to share this news with all of you.

“While this may technically be an individual award, there’s simply no way I would look half as good on camera without my amazing crew. I owe this award to their hard work , to my wife’s support, and to God’s blessing. Trust me, I didn’t get here on my own.  I’m simply not that talented or lucky”

– Chet Garner 

 A huge “Gracias” to all of our fans, supporters, PBS stations and sponsors for making this show possible. Keep watching PBS this month so you don’t miss our new episodes for Season 8.

Also CONGRATS to all the other PBS winners across the state.

  • KLRU (Austin) – Human Interest Award for Arts in Context
  • KLRU (Austin) – Cultural Documentary Award for “El Despertar”
  • KLRU (Austin) – Topical Documentary Award for Arts in Context
  • KLRU (Austin) – Special Event Coverage Award for SXSW Flashback 2015
  • KUHT (Houston) – Director Live Newscast Award for HOU Decide
  • KUHT (Houston) – Arts/Entertainment Program Award for “Body Art”
  • KUHT (Houston) – Interview Program Award for Manor of Speaking
  • KTTZ (Lubbock) – Texas Heritage Program Award for “There Will Be No Bad Talk or Loud Talk in This Place.”

Gear for the Road: Samsung Galaxy S7

“What sort of gear do you use?” is a question we get a lot over here at “The Daytripper.” It’s not an easy one to answer, because it takes a LOT of gear to make our show. We need big cameras, small cameras, still cameras, audio gear,…etc. etc. etc. Not to mention a MacGyver-like box of cables, attachments, and C-47s (a fancy film word for clothespins). Oh, and you can never forget about the smartphone.

A good smartphone is critical “GEAR FOR THE ROAD.” We use it to call locations and set up appointments. We use it as a walkie-talkie amongst the crew.  We use it as a GPS when we’re completely lost.  It’s a scouting guide. It’s a camera. It’s a social media tool. It’s a lifeline to the world. Recently, AT&T sent me a Samsung Galaxy S7 to take on the road.  So, I ditched my Galaxy S5 Active and tried it out.

DSC00070

OVERALL – the S7 is pretty darn amazing.  Here are some high points.

  • FASTER – It does everything my S5 did, but snappier and faster. (who doesn’t love that?)
  • GREAT DESIGN – It feels good in the hand. Oh so good. So good that I didn’t want to put on a case – which made me nervous I was going to drop it the entire time, but it was worth it.
  • BETTER CAMERA – The camera is incredible. And they’ve made a HUGE improvement in the front-facing one. Bring on the selfies.
  • FINGERPRINT – it lets you login with your finger. So better security. Just in case you leave it behind at that BBQ joint.
  • WATERPROOF – Or at least water resistant up to a certain point. So don’t worry about taking it to that swimming hole. A little splashin’ around won’t hurt it.
  • REMOVABLE STORAGE – It takes a microSD card, meaning you’ll never run out of photo space on the road.

If you want to really dig into the specifics and nitty-gritty, you can find a great review on Android Central.  But as far a daytrippin’ goes, this S7 might be the best phone yet.  Plus, you can put them in the cool Samsung VR goggles.  That way you can go DAYTRIPPIN’ all over the world without leaving your couch.

VR_Headset

The Greatest Texas Sheet Cake EVER! Recipe included…

Let’s be honest, one of the best things about Texas is the FOOD!  So we’re gonna try something new here on the blog and that’s to share some of the most Texan recipes of all time and our experience preparing them.  It may be one of our family favorites, or it may be something we’ve never attempted before.  We may succeed, or we may fail miserably.  Either way, we hope it makes you appreciate the rich food culture of Texas and makes you hungry for some Texas cuisine.

To kick things off, we’re skipping past the main course and jumping straight to dessert.  One of the most decadent, delectable, and desirable desserts of all time –  TEXAS SHEET CAKE!!!!

Cake

It’s that delicious, chocolaty, fudgy cake smothered with that insanely rich chocolate icing and pecans…oh, the pecans!  You know it and you love it.  

For as long as I can remember, my family has called it “Grandma’s Chocolate Cake.”  It’s been at every family holiday, every birthday, and every graduation party since the beginning of Chet (which is to say – as long as I can remember).  My wife’s family calls it “Groom’s Cake” and, yes, it was served as the groom’s cake at our wedding.

Recently my wife and I set out to compare a few recipes and try to pin down the perfect one.  We started with 4 similar, but slightly different recipes – my family recipe, Laura’s family recipe, Pioneer Woman‘s recipe, and Texas Monthlys recipe.  Turns out, it isn’t the easiest recipe!  

Recipes

Ingredients

But after reading, testing, tweaking, and eating – we think we finally figured it out.  So, Texas Sheet Cake has 3 main parts (dry mix, wet mix, icing mix),  and each of these parts has its own recipe.  

Bowls

You essentially dump all the “dry mix” ingredients into the mixer and turn it on.  It’s easy to do by hand, if you don’t have a froo-froo pink mixer like my wife.  

Blender

For the “wet mix” ingredients, you melt the butter, boil the water and then add them all together.  

Butter

Once you have those two major components done, you ever so gently, mix the wet mix into the dry mix.  

 

You stir it up.  Taste test some with your finger (of course) and then pour it all into an ungreased sheet cake pan.  

Chocolate Pour

You bake it at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.  While that’s happening, you prep the icing.  Once the cake is baked, you’re ready for the best moment of all (other than the first bite).  It’s the moment when you pour the icing over the warm gooey cake.  

 

NOTE: We have some people in our home who don’t like pecans in sweets — I call it crazy, but anyway — instead of putting the pecans in the icing for even distribution, we cover half the cake with the pecans and pour the icing on top.  It keeps them separate and keeps my family happy.  

Once that’s all done, you eat it!  Enough said.  We didn’t get pictures of eating the finished product, because we were too busy devouring it to pause and take pictures.  Trust me, it was amazing.

Finished Cake

Enjoy, here’s the full recipe.

 

RECIPE

DRY MIX
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp soda
1 tsp cinnamon (this is critical to add a dash of Mexican spice and a truly “Texan” flair)
1/2 tsp salt

Blend all these together in a mixer if you’ve got one, but mixing by hand works too.

 

WET MIX
2 sticks butter (unsalted)
1 cup boiling water
2 eggs
4 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla

Melt the butter, then add the water and cocoa powder.  Mix the other ingredients separately and then add them to the butter mixture. When this “wet mix” is done, add it to the “dry mix.”  You can then stir it up and pop it in the oven for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

 

ICING
1 stick margarine
4 Tbsp cocoa powder
6 Tbsp milk
1 box powdered sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp vanilla

While the cake is baking, melt the margarine and then add the other ingredients.  When the cake comes out, pour the icing over the cake while it’s still warm.

FINALLY, ENJOY!

18 – “Christmas Lights across Texas”

Lights, lights and more lights…such a beautiful part of the Christmas decorations that we love and we do it BIG in Texas. In this episode we share some of our favorite displays of lights across the Lone Star state. From Amarillo to Brownsville and Odessa to Marshall, there’s something for everyone to make a daytrip to see.

As you head out, here are a few resources that we recommend:
“The Lights Fantastic” – Texas Monthly, Jordan Breal
“Go Light-seeing” – Texas Highways, Erin Inks
“2015 Holiday Lights Destinations” – Texas Highways Events Calendar

In our Texas Music minute, Bree from KJ 97 in San Antonio, features Mario Flores and the Soda Creek Band.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and the Windows store!

iTunes
Windows – Search for the Daytripper Podcast in your dedicated podcast app.
Stitcher

This endeavor is generously supported by Hat Creek Burger CompanyCity of Abilene and Magic Room Studios.

Pumpkin Patchin’ Texas

NOTE: This is our first guest post from travel writer Amanda Waltman. We hope you enjoy it.

Fall is here and while the weather in Texas is a wonder all it’s own, there are plenty of places to visit and things to do to get you in the fall spirit!  Take a look at some of the best pumpkin patches in Texas! From hayrides, mazes and fishing to live music and good food, these pumpkin patches have it all.  And while Halloween may be over this weekend, pumpkin patches go well into November.

Barton Hill Farms, Bastrop, TX

BH1 BH2BH3 BH4 BH5

Photos: Barton Hill Farms Facebook

  • When: September 26-November 8, Saturday & Sunday
  • What: Boasting the most scenic pumpkin patch in Texas, the family photo ops are everywhere! Pick & paint pumpkins, find your way through the Great Pumpkin Maze and visit the farm animals. After you’ve done it all, grab a picnic blanket, some Texas BBQ, kennel corn and enjoy some live Texas Country and Bluegrass music!

Sweet Berry Farm, Marble Falls, TX

SBF1 SBF2 SBF3Photos: Sweet Berry Farm Facebook

  • When: September 26-November 8, Everyday except Wednesday.
  • What: Sweet memories are sure to be made at Sweet Berry Farm! After you find the perfect pumpkin, enjoy some homemade pumpkin pie ice cream, go for a hayride or let the kiddos traverse the farm in the Express Barrel Train. Work your way through a Texas-sized & shaped maze and on weekends go for a horse ride and enjoy some grub at The Pumpkin Grille.

Love Creek Orchards, Medina, TX

LCO1 LCO2 LCO3 LCO4

Photos: Love Creek Orchard Facebook

  • When: Every Saturday, Sunday, and Monday in October.
  • What: Love Creek is celebrating 20 years as one of the best pumpkin patches around! Go for a hay, pony or train ride, have your face painted, paint a mural or pumpkin, listen to live music or be a part of the symphony, and while you are there don’t forget to tour their famous apple orchard and learn all about the Texas Apple Industry. Afterwards head on over to The Apple Store where you will discover why Texas Monthly declared their apple pie to be “The Best Apple Pie in Texas” or pop into The Apple Store’s Patio Cafe to enjoy a meal from one of the “Best 40 Small Town Cafes in Texas”.

Devine Acres Farm, Devine, TX

DAF1 DAF2 DAF3 DAF4Photos: Divine Acre Farms Facebook

  • When: October 3-November 1, Saturday & Sunday
  • What: A trip to Devine Acre Farms is not for the faint of heart! With a plethora of different activities available, the family is sure to have a fun-filled day. From hayrides, to sack races, games of volleyball, horseshoes and washers, mazes, trike derby and family catch-and-release fishing, you’ll never run out of things to do!

At’l Do Farms, Lubbock, TX

ADF1 ADF2 ADF3 ADF4Photos: At’l Do Farms Facebook

  • When: September 19-November 14, Tuesday-Sunday
  • What: Visiting this pumpkin patch is like stepping into a story book. Take a hayride to the pumpkin patch before exploring the giant maze, or Fairy Tale Trail with the kiddos.Then grab a bag of caramel corn and some hot chocolate and take a hayride to Pumpkin Hollow at dusk where over 150 carved pumpkins are illuminated revealing different Disney characters, Famous people, Peanut Characters and other Halloween themed scenes!

NOTE:  Amanda found some awesome additions to last year’s list.  If you need more suggestions, check it out here – http://thedaytripper.com/2014/10/17/fall-festivals-and-pumpkin-patches/

New Goods!

We listened to you guys about all the cool “DAYTRIPPER” items you’d love to have while trippin’ Texas. And with that information, we went back into the SWAG LAB and came up with tons of new goods for your travels.  If you haven’t seen all the things we’ve added to The Daytripper General Store, then it’s time to look again.  New Hats.  New Shirts.  New Nalgene Water Bottles.  New Travel Mugs.  And maybe most exciting of all.  You can now download digital copies of our new episodes.  Check it out HERE.

bottles hat lt blue navy blue tumbler

Best Oktoberfest Brew?

PROST!  It’s October, which means it’s time for Texan breweries to start whipping up their own versions of Oktoberfest beer.  We drove all around Georgetown and bought as many Texas-made oktoberfest brews as we could find.  That number was 6.  But we drank em all and made a video about it.  If you’re more of a reader, lookout below.

Shiner Oktoberfest

This one was impressive.  Very drinkable and well balanced between the malt and hops.  This beer was right in all the right places.  Great job to the “little” brewery.

Saint Arnold Brewing Co. Oktoberfest

This one was really high on the malts and low on the hops.  So malty, in fact, that it made us feel like it had honey added to it.  I’d definitely recommend this one to folks who love malty beers, but not the hop heads.  However, if you’re a hop head, you probably aren’t drinking Oktoberfest anyway.

Goliad Brewing Co. Oktoberfest

This one was definitely the hoppy-est of the bunch, making us feel that it wasn’t really an Oktoberfest beer.  Good for hop-lovers though.

Real Ale Brewing Co. Oktoberfest

Really impressed with this one.  It was really malty and sweet, but not too hoppy.  It you’re a fan of Oktoberfest beer, you’ve gotta give this one a shot.  This was Richie and Daniel’s runner up.

Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. Oktoberfest

This one really did it for me.  Just enough balance between the sweet, caramel malts and the hops to make it right up the middle and almost perfect.  Well done.  This was my (Chet) favorite.

Karbach Brewing Co. “Karbachtoberfest”

The tagline on the can is “It’s Still Summer” and they’ve definitely shown it with this beer.  It doesn’t drink like an Oktoberfest at all, but an easy-go-down summer beer.  If you don’t like Oktoberfest beer, you’ll probably ove this one.  I thought it was great, but it doesn’t score high as an Oktoberfest brew, because it isn’t and shouldn’t be called one.  I love you Karbach, but you’re clearly trying to be different from the herd on this one, and cheers to that.  This was Richie and Daniel’s favorite.

Season 7 is HERE!!!

Get Ready, because Season 7 kicks off this week on PBS stations across Texas.  For our premiere episode, we are headed to East Austin to eat some handmade salami and thai food, visit Stephen F. Austin, and do an obstacle course.  Let’s hit the road.