Rob Stewart was grinding last month during his visit to Calaveras County, documenting the big trees, the roar of the Stanislaus River, the vastness of the underground caverns and the quaint culture for work.
When it came time to return to his Sacramento home days later, he was not exhausted. Instead, he said it felt like he returned from a vacation.
“I don’t know what it was. We worked 15 hours each day,” Stewart said. “We worked our butts off but oddly came home refreshed. That makes no sense.”
It was a scenario Stewart later noted was the Calaveras effect, something the executive producer and host of KVIE Public Broadcasting Service station’s “Rob on the Road” captured while in the area from April 26-28.
The show will air on May 29 at 7:30 p.m., Stewart said. It can be seen locally within range of the PBS Northern California market, but will also be broadcasted on sister stations throughout the state and ultimately the country.
“It will be repeated every four months for at least three years,” Stewart said. “Calaveras County will be completely showcased from the mountains to the sea of California. … We get a huge air rate from places all across America, particularly the northeast and southwest areas.”
The Calaveras episode features Stewart’s tour around the Murphys area. He said he stayed at the Murphys Hotel and visited Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Moaning Caverns in Vallecito and Ironstone Vineyards, meeting various individuals along the way.
“Calaveras has some of the kindest people I’ve met in the state,” Stewart said. “I have never been approached by so many people during a shoot, right in the middle of interviews recording. They just come up and give me hugs and say, ‘We’re so glad you’re here because we love this place.’”
Among those to make an appearance on television will be Ranger Steve Walloupe of Calaveras Big Trees State Park, as well as John and Gail Kautz, owners of Ironstone Vineyards.
“I always search for golden nuggets from people I interview and I really got one form the ranger. At the end of the interview, while overlooking the Stanislaus River, I asked him what he gets out of his job and why he does what he does,” Stewart said. “He said, ‘The whole reason for recreation is to recreate.’ I thought that was so profound. Calaveras County, you can completely recreate how you feel and the ripple effects flow far and wide.”
Of the Kautzes, “We talked about why they created Ironstone, how they selected Murphys for the location and what was their goal to create for Calaveras County?”
Though he was only in Calaveras for a few days, the area left a profound mark on the man who has been to hundreds of other locations throughout the state and country for his work in television.
He said most places he has visited are lucky to have one attraction that can appeal to visitors, whether it is a profound wine grape scene like in Napa County or a water industry similar to that around Lake Tahoe. Calaveras has many features.
“Every 30 miles you find a different destination location in Calaveras, whether you are going to some of the biggest trees in the world to one of the quaintest towns I’ve ever seen to some of the nicest people, as well as (a cavern) far beneath the Earth,” Stewart said. “I haven’t seen this in other places in California. What blew me away was who knew there was such a dream come true? That comes from someone who travels for a living.”
Every sense Stewart has received thus far leads him to believe the episode will be a resounding success. He said the response he’s received on social media has been larger than any other episode he has hosted. And the Calaveras episode hasn’t even aired yet.
“We have never had a response on social media from a shoot,” Stewart said. “The people of Calaveras County were so excited. They would not wait to tell and show their stories.”
Beyond the television program itself, Stewart said the exposure generally draws significant attention to the locations he features. Those that have more recreational opportunities are always the most popular, he said.
The sentiment was affirmed when he said he and his crew dedicated an entire episode to the Calaveras area. Other locations do not always get the same shine. He said sometimes they feature multiple locations in one show.
A return for a second feature could be likely. Stewart said they came to Calaveras, an area on his wish list for “quite a while,” with a set of ideas and left with many more. Many people came up to them and shared stories and insights on the area.
“That’s a testament of how much there is. We left with a list longer than what we came with,” Stewart said. “People kept saying, ‘You’ve got to do this.’”
One idea he had was to discuss the lives of individuals in the area.
“There were so many interesting people stories,” he said. “I want to come back and do a story on people and some of the fascinating lives on what they’ve done here.”