Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer

Segments air during Issues & Ideas (Wednesdays from 1 to 2 p.m.)

Tom Wilmer’s Lowell Thomas Award-winning NPR Podcast—recorded live on location across America and around the world—showcases the arts, culture, music, nature, history, science, wine & spirits, brewpubs, and the culinary arts.

We cover nouns and verbs—people, places, things, and action—everything from baseball, to exploring South Pacific atolls, to interviewing the real Santa Claus in the Arctic. Come along!

Thomas Wilmer

Luckenbach, Texas is hunkered between South Grape Creek and Snail Creek on the south side of Ranch to Market Road 1376, and a mere 13 miles from Fredericksburg.

It was Waylon Jennings’ tune "Back to the Basics of Love" that put Luckenbach on the map. In the early days of the 20th century, Luckenbach was a thriving little town with close to 500 residents, but by the 1960s it claimed just three residents. That’s when the legendary Hondo Crouch and his partner bought the ghost town and started a dance hall and pub.

Thomas Wilmer

Fredericksburg has been the go-to travel destination in the Texas Hill Country for close to a century. Peaches are distinctive in Fredericksburg, as the growers produce all of their tasty treats for the local roadside fruit-stand market.

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer for a conversation with the patriarch of Fredericksburg’s peach empire, Mark Wieser at Fischer & Weiser Specialty Foods. His family started growing peaches for the roadside market back in the 1930s. 

Randi Hair

Boo Mitchell carries on the legacy of his father, Willie Mitchell, as a producer of chart-topping record hits. One of Boo Mitchell’s proudest achievements was taking home the “Record of the Year” Grammy in 2016—the first time in the history of the Grammy Awards that a Memphis-made record garnered the award. Boo’s father is remembered and revered as a pioneer of the Memphis Soul sound. A partnership between Al Green and Willie Mitchell created their first home-run hit in 1971, followed by a number-one hit every year for the next four years.

Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent Tom Wilmer reports from the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport with a conversation with airport director Kevin Bumen. Bumen shares insights about current protocol of transiting through airports; in-flight COVID-19 precautions and the current status of the airline industry; details about TSA protocols; United, Delta, Alaska and American Airlines' modification of service frequency, including United's temporary elimination of service between San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles; and Delta's elimination of service to Santa Barbara.

Randi Hair

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for a conversation with blues singer April “Sexy Red” Jackson as she shares insights about the juke Joint culture. At one time juke joints dotted the rural countryside throughout the South. 

Thomas Wilmer

Garth Newel Music Center, situated in the Allegheny Mountains in Bath County, Virginia, is less than 3.5 hours from Washington D.C., but it’s a world away. Founded in 1973, Garth Newel is home to one of America’s premier chamber quartets. Join the conversation with violinist Teresa Ling, Evelyn Grau (viola), Isaac Melamed (Cello), and Jeanette Fang (piano). Afterwards we’ll visit with Shawn Puller, Executive Director.

Thomas Wilmer

A curiosity about the mysterious island penitentiary in the middle of San Francisco Bay led Father Bush S.J., to volunteer his services on Alcatraz in 1958. Join correspondent Tom Wilmer on Alcatraz Island for a visit with Father Bush as he shares recollections from his four years on the Rock when he was a young seminarian. Father Bush is the last surviving member of the clergy who served on Alcatraz.

Thomas Wilmer

The International Civil Rights Center & Museum preserves and showcases the legacy and significance of the Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworth sit-ins. Four young African American students at North Carolina A&T State University sat at a “whites only” counter inside the Woolworth restaurant on February 1, 1960. 

National Park Service

When correspondent Tom Wilmer stopped in to visit with Robin White, National Park Service Superintendent at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, their conversation quickly led to tears when Wilmer asked White to talk about lessons learned, but more importantly, lessons not learned in the intervening six decades--a moment in time back in September 4, 1957, when nine African American students attempted to register for classes at the all-white Central High School.

Herald-Citizen Cookeville, Tennessee

The middle Tennessee town of Monterey was established in 1893 by the Cumberland Mountain Coal Company. Today, coal is history, but the town still chugs along with just under 3,000 residents. It’s 100 miles to the nearest big towns of Knoxville, Chattanooga or Nashville; this is a place where people come to get away from it all to bike, kayak, hike and just kick back.

Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent Tom Wilmer reports from Birmingham, Alabama, where he visits with Ivan Holloway, executive director at Urban Impact. Holloway and his team develop sustainable economic opportunities and historic preservation initiatives within the underserved African American communities in the Fourth Avenue Business District and the historic Civil Rights District.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Correspondent Tom Wilmer reports from Birmingham, Alabama. Join Charles Woods III, education programs manager at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, for a TED talk-style walking tour of the institute’s museum and adjacent Kelly Ingram Park. The park was the site of major protests in the 1960s, where attack dogs were unleashed and the city's then-police chief directed assaults on the protesters with high-pressure fire hoses.

Visit Fredericksburg

Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Brewmaster, Rick Green and his assistant Riley Smith at Fredericksburg Brewing Company in downtown Fredericksburg, Texas. The Brewing Company (the oldest brewpub in Texas) specializes in old-world German-style beers that celebrate Fredericksburg’s German heritage. Their style is predicated on the 500 year-old German purity laws Reinheitsgebot limiting ingredients to hops, barley, yeast and water. Although the brewmasters do diverge and come up with some zesty, super popular seasonal specials.

Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent Tom Wilmer talks with the city manager of Morro Bay, Scott Collins, about the local government's response to the pandemic shutdown. As a popular seaside travel destination in recent decades, the economic health of Morro Bay has been dependent on tax revenue generated by hotel occupancy, retail sales, and rental income from waterfront business leases—all of which have plummeted due to COVID-19. For the first time in modern history, Morro Bay has instituted reverse tourism promotions to discourage visitors and vacationers.

Thomas Wilmer

It all started with a peach orchard planted in 1928 with an adjacent roadside fruit stand in Fredericksburg, Texas. Today, in addition to fresh peaches available at the fruitstand, Fischer & Wieser Specialty Foods cooking sauces are distributed nationwide. 

Thomas Wilmer

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer in the rural Tennesee heartland for a visit with Becky Magura, CEO of PBS affiliate WCTE, serving middle Tennessee; and a visit with Hippie Jack at his farm. Hippie Jack, aka Jack Stoddart, shares snippets from his life journey passionately advocating for residents of the Upper Cumberland communities—where coal mining once thrived.  

KCBX

Kain Tietzel, CEO and founder of Sydney, Australia-based Start VR talks about the newly released Atlas Obscura VR (virtual reality) hi-fidelity virtual travel experience.

Palace Hotel

When the Palace Hotel first opened its doors in 1875 it was proclaimed the largest hotel in the world and San Francisco’s first luxury hotel. Destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, the hotel was rebuilt in 1909 and the grand dame of San Francisco lives on as the city’s most historic hotel and the place to see and be seen.

Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Christine Johnson, executive director of the Central Coast Aquarium, to learn more about the future of that facility, as well as plans for a new incarnation of the Morro Bay Aquarium.

Jason Sweeney

Garrison commander Colonel Robert Horvath talks with correspondent Tom Wilmer about modified training and adjustments to daily life due to social distancing at California National Guard base Camp Roberts.

NBC News

Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum Executive Director Kari Watkins as she recalls the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. In addition to destroying one third of the Murrah Federal Building and killing 168 people, more than 325 buildings in a 16-block radius were damaged. The Oklahoma bombing remains as the deadliest domestic terrorism attack in America’s history. 

Captain Jason Sweeney California National Guard

Correspondent Tom Wilmer reports from the California National Guard base Camp San Luis Obispo, where he interviews San Luis Obispo County employees and National Guard members involved in food and medical supply warehousing and distribution to first responders and regional food banks.

Thomas Wilmer

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (COES) and the California Specialized Training Institute (CSTI) are charged with coordinating emergency preparedness and response to natural disasters and threats to civil order, including cyber and terrorist attacks, fires, earthquakes, floods and pandemics such as the coronavirus. COES and CSTI maintain training facilities at the California National Guard base Camp San Luis Obispo. 

Thomas Wilmer

Fort Hunter Liggett, in southern Monterey County, is America’s largest US Army Reserve training installation. It is also a remote community with specific actions being taken during the ongoing COVID 19 crisis. Associate Producer Carol Tangeman visits with Colonel Charles Bell, commander at Fort Hunter Liggett

Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent Tom Wilmer talks with wine producer Vic Roberts, owner of Victor Hugo Winery in Templeton, about transformations in the wine industry in response to COVID-19.

Catiethering.com

There are two standard options for dogs and cats that arrive at shelters and pounds: adoption or euthanasia. Lisa LaVerdiere decided to create another option that she dubbed The Third Door, providing a home for unadoptable dogs and cats. In a recent visit, correspondent Tom Wilmer learns that LaVerdiere was a successful tort lawyer with a specialization in asbestos issues and juvenile lead poisoning. 

Thomas Wilmer

Teresa Stephens, owner of the Lubbock, Texas Cast Iron Grill recounts her fear of the homeless, until she confronted her phobia and wound up embracing and making sacrifices to feed those in need. Join correspondent Tom Wilmer at the Cast Iron Grill in downtown Lubbock, adjacent to the Buddy Holly Museum, as Stephens shares her poignant tale that ultimately enriched and transformed her life through serving the homeless.

Randi Hair

Correspondent Tom Wilmer reports from the Greensboro, North Carolina where he meets with Greensboro Battleground Parks District's imagineers. 

Irish Archeology

The famine ship Jeanie Johnston, built in 1848, made 16 trans-Atlantic passages carrying more than 2,500 passengers. The vessel is revered in the annals of the Irish Potato famine as not one life was lost throughout her career—while many famine ships lost more than 30 percent of their manifest to disease, lack of fresh water and toxic food. 

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