I’ve been known to do some rather off the wall things in the name of this fandom. You know, like randomly running off to some city to attend a con or event involving perfect strangers, all in the name of the SPN Family. My adventures have been curtailed as of late, but when an opportunity came up to attend an Impala event at the Family Business Beer Company outside Austin, Texas the last week in April, well, suddenly I was checking flights from Ohio. After all, two of my favorite words were uttered, Impala and beer. One reasonably priced flight later, the weekend was a go.
Actually, I should say TWO reasonably priced flights. This time, Mr. Jester came with me and thank Heavens. He is a far better photographer than I am and he delivered some amazing shots the entire weekend. He first joined me in Toledo in March at the Conversation with Eric Kripke and has found he doesn’t mind these unique fandom events. He didn’t care for the con he went to once, but travel to a part of the country we had never seen for cars and beer, why not? (See why I married him?) The fact was neither of us had been to Austin, Texas, or even central Texas before and very likely would never have another occasion to do so. Considering it ended up being cold and rainy in Ohio during our trip, the 85 degrees and sunny forecast turned out to be a big no brainer.
A Haunting of Impalas
(This photo and the header photo courtesy of the Haunting of Impalas Facebook Page)
The idea of getting together a bunch of Impala owners and their cars happened last year. After all, a very active online community of Impala car owners has grown through the years as more and more people are buying and restoring 1967 Impalas out of their love for “Supernatural.” There are more than 100 known “Supernatural” related Impala owners on the list. In May 2018, 7 of them brought their cars and gathered at The Family Business Beer Company for an afternoon. Those who attended had plenty of fun, so much so that they decided to do it again this year and possibly make it an annual event.
Travis Perdue was the one who contacted us about this unique event. He is currently waiting for his Impala to be built. He will be getting his Impala from Rick Belvins, an Impala restoration guru from Kansas. He has already built near a dozen 1967 Impalas and Travis said he’s currently fifth on the waiting list. Travis is also one of the charter members of the upstart Men of Letters Foundation, a fandom based charity. There’s more info to come on that in the future, but one possibility is that future Impala gatherings will also be charity events.
Travis wasn’t the only one without an Impala. There were several others there that were either waiting for their Impalas to be built, or were unable to bring their cars for one reason or another. All in all, there were a couple dozen owners at the gathering. One thing I did discover: this growing community of Impala owners has become a tight knit one. Their love of the Metallicar has created a huge bond and led to adventures all across the country. This gathering was like a giant family reunion. They all stayed together in a couple of rented houses on Lake Travis, a compound with plenty of acreage to hold all these beautiful cars and other vehicles. The matching t-shirts certainly gave the whole thing a family reunion feel!
(Courtesy of the Haunting Impalas Facebook Page)
With this year’s gathering, they had hoped to have 12 “screen accurate” replicas and 4 or 5 tribute cars, but a few had to cancel. Even though there were fewer cars than planned, that didn’t make the event less disappointing. There were so many great cars to look at. In the end there were 7 replicas, 2 tribute cars and 1 yellow Gremlin. The latter was no replica!
Meet Yertle, the actual car driven by Felicia Day in the show. I was especially excited to see Yertle since she was brought by Rianna Melton, a very active fan who Bettina Bier interviewed for us a month ago. In that interview Rianna told us the entire story of how she came to own Yertle. She shared some updated information with me about her “baby” since that interview. Yertle had been in New Mexico the last few weeks going through maintenance by her Dad. These studio cars aren’t treated too well and usually need a bunch of work when sold. They are only supposed to travel a few feet at time while shooting so not a lot is put into engine work or inner comfort. Even the yellow paint job was a rush and you could still see the original red in places. Rianna had only picked Yertle up recently, drove back to her home to Lawrence, Kansas and then eventually down to Texas for this gathering. She’s been putting a lot of miles on this yellow Gremlin and it’s been doing great! Needless to say, she was one beaming owner. Especially when she got to experience this!
(Photo courtesy of @riannamelton)
One of the Impalas present is currently a “celebrity.” Hilly, owned by Jan Ashmore, aka Supernatural Angel, was the Impala used in the Hillywood Parody. She also was at the “Scoobynatural” premiere. Hilly is now part of a 503c charity and all proceeds from appearances will go to charities that the “Supernatural” actors are involved with. I was a little stunned to hear the story that Hilly was Jan’s backup Impala, since her primary one was stolen! Hilly certainly didn’t look like a backup Impala. She is a stunner and has a lot of signatures on the glove box to prove it.
The other Impalas there were Mary and Yancey from Tennessee, Rocky from North Carolina, The Darkness from Iowa, Sammy from Florida, Baby Blue/Icy Bitch from Texas, The Savior from Florida and a very special red Impala from Texas named Rowena. I loved looking at every single one both inside and out. Some had the infamous Green Cooler in the back, one had Sam's old laptop, others had tape cassettes and fake badges. A few were signed. Some of them had a nice decked out trunk space with all the wares needed for a Winchester hunting trip.
I got to talk a bit with Claudia, who brought her gorgeous baby blue Impala for the second year in a row. She doesn't have the heart to paint it black and many have advised her against it. She now calls the car "Icy Bitch." She was a bit overcome by getting to sit in her car and have a nice conversation with Jensen. She had the most priceless fan girl moment when she got out of the car! Definitely on cloud nine and beyond.
I also spent a bit of time admiring Rowena, maybe because she was so unique. She came in on a flatbed truck but man did she shine. Rowena is Sharon Eiben’s labor of love. She’s had the car four years and started the restoration herself. The car used to be a baby blue color, but the decision to paint it red was in honor of “Supernatural’s” most popular red-headed witch. A lot of the exterior is done but the engine and interior still needs work. Another big project in the works is the trunk, which will be dedicated to all things Rowena. Lots of items needed for everyday witchcraft, entertaining and I would expect a Book of the Damned will be spotted there somewhere. Can’t wait to see it! Sharon has been documenting Rowena’s journey on her Facebook page.
Restoration got to be a bit much physically for Sharon (pictured next to Jensen on the left, below), so Rowena is currently being restored by another Impala restoration guru out of Dallas, TX named Brian Maupin (pictured below on the right). He was at the event this weekend proudly showing off his work. Jensen was especially attracted to Rowena, joking that he has a thing for “Reds” (a shoutout to his lovely wife). Brian had a very big thrill when showing this latest project to Jensen - he got an offer to restore an ACTUAL Baby that Jensen will be bringing home when the show is over. Jensen admitted that Hero 1, the car he will be getting, is in really rough shape and in need of some “TLC.” He has been beating on it for 15 years! He said more than once he was ready to join this Impala event in the future when he gets his car.
The Family Business Beer Company
This was my first visit to the brewery. Heck, as I mentioned, it was my first visit ever to Austin or even this part of Texas. I’ve been to a lot of breweries. Brewery hopping is one of the activities the hubby and I have picked up in recent years. A lot of upstart breweries we go to are meager at best. It’s usually a small little room in the back of a house or a barn. Some have been in garages! Parking has been laughable. The Family Business is NOT one of those places. This place looks like they have an actual business plan! It is on a sprawling 15 acre estate out in the country. The scenery on the way there was very pretty. The property has loads of trees (pecan?) and plenty of open space for parking too.
There is a nice old colonial house on the property, which can be seen in some of the logos for the business. Next to it is a huge outbuilding that contains the brewery and taproom. The outdoor area contains a wrap around patio with seating and numerous picnic tables. The picnic tables are wisely in the trees to offer plenty of shade from the hot Texas sun, which did make an appearance on the day we were there. There is a playground for the younger tagalongs (as a parent I stress this is a must) and a food truck. My only complaint was that one small food truck was not able to handle all the visitors. We waited a very long time for two basic dishes. More food trucks!
That’s my only complaint though about my visit. As atmosphere goes, it was perfect. There was live music and behind the bar you can see an endless loop of Bob Ross videos. Loved it! There’s something so serene about watching Bob Ross paint and the hairstyle is a hoot! The beers were pretty good too, and if you look at my Untapped app I have tasted almost a thousand beers. I know my beers! My favorite was the Grackle, because I’m a sucker for a strong imperial stout. My husband’s was the Cosmic Cowboy (as mentioned in “Nihilism”) and the Hamilton, which we did find out was Jensen’s choice that day. Great choice on a hot afternoon!
We were sitting there talking with one of the car owners when everyone started gathering around the bar quick. I looked up and low and behold there was Jensen behind the bar. He was getting himself a beer and possibly posing for people that were grabbing all sorts of selfies with him in the background. I got a picture, but I suck at selfies. Wouldn’t you want to see the beauty behind the counter anyway? (Note the great shot of the Bob Ross video).
Within a few minutes he was gone in the back, where he spent most of his time. The stories are conflicting but from what I understand, Jensen usually visits the brewery on the weekends. I know that the Impala Haunting organizers months ago told Jensen and the brewery they were coming, but whether Jensen remembered is unknown. No plans to meet Jensen were confirmed before that day.
I went back out to the parking lot to get more pictures and speak with more of the car owners and that’s when Travis mentioned that Jensen was supposed to come out and see the cars. They were hoping he would be there soon, but it was a long wait. Some thought he left the brewery and a Jensen visit started looking very uncertain. After a while though, around 3:00, Jensen did come out, thrilling the car owners, not to mention the entire crowd.
Jensen was in a great mood and looked like he was having the time of his life. No wonder, he was at his happy place. There were no convention halls, studios, press conferences, schedules, etc. He was at his business, wearing his brewery merchandise (the hat was on backward!) and was honored that these car owners chose his establishment to have their gathering.
It certainly helps he’s a classic car lover. He went to every single car and met with each owner, talking and posing for pictures. He talked a lot about how he would be getting his Baby and how excited he was about it. He loved Yertle too (his favorite non-Impala) and gave us the iconic shot, leaning on the Gremlin in Texas fashion drinking a beer, one from his brewery. Yep, everything was awesome in his world.
Jensen took several pictures on his phone of the cars and the crowd. The funniest part was when he gave his phone to one of the owners, Randee McDonald, to take a picture of him sitting behind the wheel and starting up a car. She jumped in and took a selfie of her and him with HIS PHONE. It was hilarious. Others started jumping in and taking selfies too, but they did that with their own phones. Jensen posed for a lot of pictures!
My husband was particularly blown away that Jensen spent so much time visiting and posing for pictures, especially when he was clearly being swarmed by a crowd. I’ll admit, I haven’t seen this either, and I’ve had lots of encounters with Jensen. It was truly a joy to watch. I’ve never seen him this relaxed. That alone made this entire trip from Ohio worth it, although I did have a blast the entire weekend. We did get a lot of really pretty pictures! Here's a few of them.
Between the hubby and I, we got around 12 minutes of good footage of Jensen looking at the cars and talking with the crowd. There's a lot of great moments in this video, including several I already reported on (yes, we have the selfie stunt and Claudia's fan girl moment). It also has Jensen going off to the side to take pictures of the crowd on his phone. It starts with the caravan of Impalas arriving at the brewery. What I most love about it is just how much fun Jensen was having. There was so much joy all around that afternoon!
About a half hour later Jensen went back inside, highly encouraging everyone to come back in and enjoy some more beer. Just about most of us took him up on his offer! I think we all had one more round before wrapping up at the brewery and driving in an Impala led caravan back to “compound” where we had fantastic local BBQ and enjoyed the impressive view of Lake Travis (or the Colorado River, we couldn’t figure it out). Everyone was just on cloud nine, still reeling from their time spent with Jensen. The event couldn’t have gone any better. I could only smile. I’ve had a few of those fan girl moments with Jared and Jensen in my past and yeah, it never gets old.
It’s interesting, but I ran into other “Supernatural” fans that weekend as well, even outside of the brewery. I met a lady at the Visitors Center in Austin, wearing a shirt that had the “Mystery Spot” logo on it captioned, “It must be Tuesday.” I told her it’s funny she’s wearing that shirt, since I wore my “Pig in a Poke” shirt the day before at the brewery. Turns out she was at the Family Business the day before too! Wow, we would have been quite a pair if she had worn that shirt the day before, huh? “Mystery Spot” for the win. She was in from Arizona enjoying the weekend. On a side note, when talking with the Impala owners, they loved my Pig in a Poke shirt. I told them it was my all time favorite episode. Turns out their favorite episode was rather unanimous. You’ve got it, it’s “Baby.”
But yeah, I do believe Austin is becoming a popular tourist destination for “Supernatural” fans. I saw a lot of “Family Business Beer Company” shirts around town. I did find that Austin is an amazing place to visit and has a lot to offer for tourists looking for a weekend getaway. The Oasis at Lake Travis was a stunner! So was the Oz Tap House within walking distance of the hotel where you get a card and pour your own beer by the ounce from a choice of several taps. The burgers and sweet potato fries were out of this world. I also got to see Waco (on the way back to Dallas where flights were way cheaper). Chip and Joanna Gaines have totally oversold the charm of that place! The double decker tour of downtown Austin was great too, even if I got a little sunburned. The best part though was the In-N-Out Burger by the airport! It was our savior the night we arrived. No, there are no In-N-Out Burgers in Ohio. I know! How do we even live? There is something bothering me though, for those of you living in Texas - where in the world did the road designations come from? RM - Ranch to Market? In Ohio, they are called Streets or Roads. I guess we're boring!
(Enjoying Margaritas at Oasis on Lake Travis)
Thank you to Travis Perdue for the invite and to all the great car owners, “Supernatural” fans, and Texans in general for giving me a memorable trip. All I can say is sign me up for next year. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll take that plunge and get my own Baby. Nah, I’d probably go from the 1967 mustang from that AU episode in season six. Sue me, I was raised in a Ford family.
More resources on this active part of the fandom can be found here:
Here's a couple of profile articles we have done on Impala owners:
Inspired by Supernatural: Betty the Impala!
Rebuilding a Classic Impala from Scratch: One Supernatural Fan's Story Part One
Rebuilding a Classic Impala from Scratch: One Supernatural Fan's Story Part Two
Here's the complete photo gallery of the photos shot by either myself or Mr. Jester (Just credit The Winchester Family Business if you want to share any of these photos).