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!

Alabama Chanin

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer for a most insightful conversation with Chanin at her combination showroom and School of Making in Florence, Alabama.

For NYC fashion legend Natalie Chanin, it was a fruitless hunt for a NYC embroidery company willing to work on her hand-sewn designer t-shirt projects that spurred her to move back home to Florence, Alabama.

Frustrated with an endless litany of thanks but no thanks from East Coast embroidery companies, it suddenly dawned on Chanin that her network of rural crafter/quilting friends back in Alabama would be ideally suited to work on her discerning hand-sewn designer projects. Chanin moved back home to Florence in 2000 and she’s never looked back. Come along and join the conversation.

Mosaic Templars Cultural Center

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer for a revealing conversation about African American history with Courtney Bradford, curator of collections at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas.

Ms. Bradford is also a professor of African American Studies at the University of Arkansas Little Rock. Ms. Bradford shares fascinating insights about African American history revealed and embraced through the legacy of storytelling, music, art, architecture, cuisine and more.

Ryan French (left image) Tom Wilmer

Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits two distinctly different Episcopal parishes and finds both rectors sharing consistent philosophies predicated on compassion and engagement.

Christopher Bowhay is the Rector St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Columbia Tennessee. Bowhay’s church dates from 1860, but his parish also stewards the antebellum St. John’s Episcopal Church in nearby Ashwood, Maury County, Tennessee.

Thomas Wilmer

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer reporting from Santa Barbara County for a visit with the Craig, Cindy and Chad Makela at their organic olive ranch in the rugged hills above Refugio State Beach.

Thomas Wilmer

The town of North Little Rock, Arkansas is separated from the capital city of Little Rock by the Arkansas River. Come along and join correspondent Tom Wilmer for a visit with Scott Sudduth with the North Little Rock Convention & Visitors bureau to discover the array of cool and distinctive attractions.

Arkansas Business News

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer for a visit with Gretchen Hall, President and CEO of the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau to discover the litany of cool things to do and see in the capital city of Arkansas.

Highlights include the River Market District, the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, as well as an abundance of historic homes, trendsetting cuisine and much more.

Thomas Wilmer

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer in Little Rock, Arkansas for a conversation with Arkansas State Tourism Director, Travis Napper. Arkansas’s moniker is “The Natural State” as there’s an eye-popping litany of outdoor activities that attract visitors from around the world.

Thomas Wilmer

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer for a visit with Tim O’Brien, assistant director and curator of exhibitions at the SFO Museum. SFO showcases the arts, science, pop-culture, anthropology and aviation history in 28 galleries located in terminals throughout the airport.

Thomas Wilmer

JUL 19, 2016

The International Towing and Recovery Museum in ChattanoogaTennessee features famous tow trucks, including the world’s largest wrecker, a WWII tank recovery tow truck, and the world’s oldest tow truck. 

But equally engaging is the Tow Truck Wall of Fame honoring tow truck industry legends from around the world. Most touching is the Wall of The Fallen out front, with a large bronze statue of a driver lifting a mother and child from a nearly submerged car. The Wall of the Fallen proudly lists 389 tow-truck drivers killed in the line of duty around the world. America’s first tow truck was built in 1916, about three miles away from the museum, at the Ernest Holmes Company.

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer in Chattanooga, Tennessee for a visit with the International Towing & Recovery Truck Museum Executive Director, Angela Roper. This show was originally published July 19, 2016 and is reshared as a best-of-the-best radio travel show celebrating the 31st anniversary of Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer's on-air and digital media podcasts.

Ryan French

Franklin, Tennessee historian and attorney-at-law Tony Turnbow, envestigates the possibility that Meriwether Lewis, of Lewis and Clark fame, didn’t commit suicide in 1809. Turnbow shares compelling circumstantial evidence that Lewis was actually murdered and robbed while traveling along the Natchez Trace in Tennessee.

U.S. Army

Correspondent Tom Wilmer reports from U.S. Army Reserve Garrison Fort Hunter Liggett in Monterey County for a conversation with Commander Colonel Charles Bell.

Bell shares recollections of his accomplishments and challenges at Fort Hunter Liggett as Garrison Commander for the past 24 months. He also shares insights about his new assignment in Salt Lake City, Utah as Chief of Staff for the 76th Operational Response Command.

Ryan French

Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Eric Jacobson, CEO of the Battle of Franklin Trust. Jacobson talks about the last major battle of the Civil War, The Battle of Franklin in Middle Tennessee, November 30, 1864.

He also shares insights about the complex legacy of the Civil War—from advances in medicine to the advent of the KKK. How the 1915 Hollywood film Birth of a Nation and the 1939 debut of Gone With The Wind propelled the advocates who believe that the war was actually a “War of Northern aggression”.

But most importantly Jacobson shares his optimistic faith in the critical thinking skills of the generation of Americans who came of age in the post civil-rights era.

The Spa at Leipers Fork

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer at the Spa at Leipers Fork, Tennessee for a visit with owner, Lisa Crary. In addition to operating the popular spa, Ms. Crary is also the CEO of Sanitas Skincare Corporation based in Boulder, Colorado. Of course Ms. Crary’s eco-friendly, dye-free skincare products are featured at the Leipers Fork Spa, as well as spas and salons across America including world-class resorts such as the Montage, and Sandals Resorts throughout the Caribbean.

Library of Congress

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer for a visit with historian/docent Lynn Weaver at the circa-1820s birthplace home of Helen Keller in Tuscumbia, Alabama.

Discover fascinating insights about Ms. Keller, her relationship with her mentor Annie Sullivan, her friendship with Alexander Graham Bell, and how she challenged the service group Lions International—which radically transformed the organization’s mission around the world to this day.

Ms. Weaver also shares fascinating insights about Ms. Keller’s role as a radical socialist--an outspoken advocate for child labor laws and women’s voting rights. Ms. Keller received punitive blowback from some influential Americans in power positions.

Thomas Wilmer

Kathy and Michael Dumont operate the historic Commodore Hotel in downtown Linden, Tennessee. In addition to live music every week, they take guests on fascinating Kayak trips down the Buffalo River. Join correspondent Tom Wilmer as he visits with Mike Dumont followed by a visit with two Tennessee musicians, The Professor and The Bull, who regularly perform in the Commodore’s Music Café.

Thomas Wilmer

U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hunter Liggett in southern Monterey County is on target to reach their goal of Net-Zero energy resiliency to critical facilities by 2022 via a new micro-grid.

Hunter Liggett is slated to become the first U.S. Army installation in America capable of generating and distributing electricity off-grid for a minimum of 14 days across the entire cantonment.

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer as he visits with Fort Hunter Liggett Garrison Commander, Colonel Charles Bell; Nicole Bulgarino, executive vice-president for Federal Solutions at Ameresco, the project design-build firm that specializes in clean energy technologies; followed by a conversation with Colonel James Handura, Commander and District Engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District.

Cindy Dupree

Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Mackenzie Jo Cottles, marketing coordinator at the Shoals Economic Development Authority based in Florence, Alabama.

Ms. Cottles shares insights about the Shoals region, its affordable real estate prices where $150,00 buys a cool three-bedroom, two-bath home. She also talks about the area's activity attractions, from trend-setting dining venues to legendary music festivals, and an array of outdoor activities from biking and hiking the kayaking on the rivers.

The Shoals Remote Worker Incentive Program targets tech-centric demographics—people with remote jobs in fields like web design, graphic design, software engineering, computer programming, digital marketing, and more.

Courtesy: The Shoals Recording Studio

Rob Carnegie, president & CEO Visit Florence Alabama takes us on an audio tour of the legendary Shoals Region that includes the towns of Sheffield, Tuscumbia and Muscle Shoals.

The Shoals abounds with amazing destinations such as an iconic Frank Lloyd Wright home, trend-setting cuisine, world-renowned fashion designers, and historic places to stay. For anyone interested in music, don't miss the tours of Fame Studio and The Shoals Recording Studio and Alabama Music Hall of Fame where they have been etching America’s music-soundtrack since the 1960’s.

Come along and join the journey to discover just why The Shoals Region is an icon of everything American at its best.

A visit with the United States Marine Corps Historian Mike Miller at the National Museum of the United States Marine Corps located in Triangle, Virginia, adjacent to Quantico Marina Corps base. The National Museum of the Marine Corps is a lasting tribute to U.S. Marines--past, present, and future.

Thomas Wilmer

The J.C. Newman Cigar Company, founded in 1895 in Tampa, Florida is the oldest family-owned premium cigar maker in America. Come along and join Bobby Newman at the family’s 110 year-old cigar factory in the heart of Ybor City.

Bobby shares fascinating insights about the Newman family’s 126-year history of making cigars and how to properly savor a stogie. The grandson of the founder Julius Caeser Newman, Bobby oversees the process of crafting premium cigars both by hand and with ancient hand-operated cigar machines. He also coordinates the partnership with the legendary Don Carlos and Arturo Fuente Cigar Company.

Thomas Wilmer

Tampa, Florida offers locals and visitors alike a rich and diverse culinary and coffee cultural scene.

In our quest to discovery just why the foodie scene is raging in Tampa, associate producer Jennifer Simonson and producer Tom Wilmer visit with chef Ferrell Alvarez at the Rooster & the Till restaurant in the up-and-coming Seminole Heights neighborhood. Roberto Torrez the visionary behind the virally successful Blind Tiger Coffee speakeasy cafe in downtown Ybor City shares the numerous reasons why Tampa’s population is exploding and why people savor living here.

Jennifer Simonson

Vū Studio is a cutting-edge, trendsetting 30,000 square foot virtual video production studio located in Tampa, FL. Join correspondent Tom Wilmer and associate producer Jennifer Simonson for a conversation with three-time Emmy award-winning director and Vū CEO Tim Moore.

Moore shares fascinating insights about his virtual video production studio, employing Experiential Reality—the frontier iteration beyond AR and VR technology that includes motion control robotics and advanced motion capture technology. 

Lions Eye Institute

The Lions Eye Institute, located in a repurposed historic cigar factory in Tampa Florida’s Ybor City, is the world’s first and only combined eye bank and ocular research center.

Join correspondents Tom Wilmer and Jennifer Simonson for an insightful conversation with Jason Woody, President and CEO of the Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research.

Debbie Cunningham


Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Mike Coldani at his Lodi, California ranch, where he and his family farm more than 1,000 acres and produce award-winning, organically-grown olive oil

Coldani talks about “learn-by-doing” lessons acquired while majoring in agriculture at San Luis Obispo's Cal Poly State University—insights and connections that continue to serve him well, 18 years after graduation.

This show (originally broadcast January 18, 2019) was selected as a Best-of-the-Best show from the archives of Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer in celebration of its 31st anniversary producing audio travel shows for NPR affiliate KCBX and NPR One podcasts.

Thomas Wilmer

Tampa, Florida is in the midst of an urban core renaissance. Come along and join the conversation with Dave Bevirt, Executive Vice President of Corporate Leasing with Strategic Property Partners and correspondent Jennifer Simonson to learn about the incredible downtown, Water Street Tampa project.

Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent Jennifer Simonson takes us inside Florida’s oldest restaurant. Simonson visits with Andrea Gonzmart, the great, great granddaughter of Ybor City’s iconic Columbia Restaurant's founder. The family patriarch was a Cuban immigrant who opened the restaurant in 1903 to feed the cigar rollers on their way to and from work.

Come along with Simonson to discover the history behind some of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, how what started out as a small corner cafe in 1903 turned into a restaurant with 15 dining-rooms that takes up an entire city block. Gonzmart also shares her thoughts about the future in the restaurant world, along with her description of the essential ingredients in the iconic “Cuban” sandwich.

Jennifer Simonson

Correspondent Tom Wilmer reports from Tampa, Florida where he meets with trend-setting mayor, Jane Castor. Central to Castor’s mission, following a 30-year career on the Tampa police force, is a passionate focus on affordable housing, transportation and workforce development.

Castor’s legacy as an engaged Tampa police officer, including a tour of duty as chief, has left a legacy of a brilliant, functional community policing policy where the community knows the police officers and the police officers know the residents of the neighborhood communities.

Come along and join Castor to discover the reasons why Tampa is one of America's safest and fastest growing cities with a dynamic economy that attracts legions of 30-somethings to relocate from around the country.

California National Guard PAO Major Sweeney

In honor of Armed Forces Day May 15th, we repost Correspondent Tom Wilmer's report from Camp Roberts,  where he visits with Gary McMaster, chairman and curator at the Camp Roberts Historical Museum.

U.S. Army training base Camp Roberts is located 16 miles north of Paso Robles. Camp Roberts dates from March 1941, when it commenced operations as America’s largest U.S. Army basic training base. Throughout WWII, more than 436,000 infantry and field artillery troops completed a 17-week basic training stint at the base.

Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Geoff Lippman at the American Armory Museum just off Interstate 80 in Fairfield, California where an array of tanks, jeeps, trucks, armored personnel carriers and more are showcased and open to the public. Next up is a visit with Molly Tou, owner of the locals’ favorite diner Two60 Kitchen and Bar where she talks about the journey navigating her business through the COVID crisis and distinctive favorite dishes.

Thomas Wilmer

Rush Ranch is a haven for every variety of outdoor enthusiast, from hikers to birdwatchers and those who simply relish open space. Come along and join correspondent Tom Wilmer for a visit with Solano Land Trust’s executive director Nicole Braddock at the 2,000-acre Rush Ranch Nature Center on the outskirts of Suisun City, California.