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

Join assistant winemaker and co-owner of Sunset Cellars, Fah Sathirapongsasuti as he shares cool insights about the winery’s award-winning varietals including the flagship Barbera, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Fah is also a Stanford University grad with a PhD in biostatistics from Harvard in Computational Biology. He is also a founding member of 23andMe therapeutics.


Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Ann and Mark Sievers, passionate stewards of Il Fiorello, producers of organically grown olive oil. Join the conversation to learn about discerning ways to utilize olive oil and visiting the farm situated on the outskirts of Fairfield, California in Suisun Valley. Il Fiorello’s sprawling farmland is graced with more than 13 different varieties of olive trees from Italy, Greece, Spain, France and Tunisia.

Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent Tom Wilmer reports from the coastal haven of Pacifica, California. Even though the oceanfront community is less than a 20-minute drive from downtown San Francisco, it’s a distinctly kicked-back seaside town. Join Wilmer as he visits with Pacifica City Council member, Mike O’Neill followed by a conversation with innkeeper Ella Patel at the new Anchor Inn with panoramic vistas of the Pacific Ocean.

Library of Congress

  A century following the genocide of more than 1.5 million Armenians, the Turkish government refuses to acknowledge or apologize their genocidal policies and actions. In the spring of 2015 in conjunction with the centenary of the Turkish genocide (1915-1918) correspondent Tom Wilmer met with Armenian-American Amy Hoogasian in San Francisco.

Hoogasian recalled childhood memories of her grandparents’ tales of horrific abuse and mass murder at the hands of the Turks.

Hoogasian shared her hope for some sort of mea culpa by the Turkish government. But six years after Hoogasian’s conversation first aired (April 24, 2015), the Turkish government remains mute on the subject. April 24th is the formal “anniversary” of the genocide, but the tragic period in Armenian’s collective memory lives on every day.   


Correspondent Tom Wilmer met up with Sandy Lipkowitz, owner of San Francisco based, We Make Travel Easy—specializing in customized travel planning for the discerning traveler to learn about the Floriade experience.

Ms. Lipkowitz shares details about her upcoming tour planned for May 29-June 7, 2022 to the legendary Floriade International Horticultural Expo on the outskirts of Amsterdam. Following the expo, participants will visit the Aalsmeer Flower Auction--the world’s largest flower auction. Participants will then board an AMAWaterways river cruise to visit legendary gardens in The Netherlands and Belguim.

U.S. Army Reserve

Join Major Christopher Lauff, Commander, USAG HHC at Fort Hunter Liggett as he shares details about the May 15 open house.

An array of activities for the public include a WWII C-47 fly-in along with an Coast Guard helicopter, and a hands-on chance for kids and adults to fire rifles and machine guns in the virtual reality lab.

Joe Ping, Senior Training Instructor shares insights about how military training has evolved through virtual reality. Join correspondent Tom Wilmer at U.S. Army Reserve base Fort Hunter Liggett in Monterey County to learn the rest of the story. 

Suisun Valley Vintners & Growers Association

Correspondent Tom Wilmer reports from Suisun Valley wine region on the outskirts of Fairfield, California where he visits with the owner of Wooden Valley Winery, Ron Lanza.

Courtesy Wendy Voorsanger

Wendy Voorsanger, Cal Poly grad and author of the award-winning novel, Prospects of a Woman talks with correspondent Tom Wilmer. Voorsanger shares insights about the book, and her work chronicling exceptional women throughout California's history featured on her blog She is California.

Thomas Wilmer

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer in Suisun Valley at the Blue Victorian for an insightful conversation about the art of crafting fine wines with award-winning winemaker Jake Stuessy for Vezer Family Vineyards. Suisun Valley is Fairfield, California’s historic wine growing region, less than 8 miles from Napa Valley.

John Jamison

Correspondent Tom Wilmer reports from the Jelly Belly Candy Company in Fairfield, California. Join John Jamison, VP of retail operations for the story of Jelly Belly the iconic American candy that was founded in 1898 and was a favorite of President Reagan. Jelly Belly candies also went in to orbit with the NASA shuttle Challenger in 1983.

Thomas Wilmer

Fairfield, California is just 45 minutes from San Francisco to the west and 45 minutes to Sacramento to the east, but it’s definitely a world apart. The Fairfield region is home of the legendary Jelly Belly candy factory, and Solano Land Trust’s Rush Ranch Nature Center with 2,000 acres of marsh and grassland.

Fairfield also claims its very own wine-growing region called Suisun Valley just minutes away from downtown that’s a timeless treasure, and a California best-kept-secret destination.

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer for an exploration of Fairfield and Suisun Valley wine region with Anand Patel, CEO at Visit Fairfield CA followed by a visit with Frank Vezer owner of Vezer Family Vineyard and his general manager Pam Valdivia. Vezer’s tasting room is located at historic Mankas Corner in the heart of Suisun Valley.

U.S. Army

In honor of Fort Hunter Liggett’s 80th anniversary we repost correspondent Tom Wilmer's conversation with Brian Neumann, Ph.D., a historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History at Fort McNair in Washington D.C.

Newmann talks about lieutenant General Hunter Liggett, who was second-in-command of the U.S. Army’s World War 1 American Expeditionary Forces in Europe. Liggett was a visionary tactician who transformed field tactics through combined-arms that remain employed by the U.S. Army today.   

Thomas Wilmer

William Randolph Heart’s old ranch headquarters was constructed in 1930. Hearst and architect Julia Morgan’s classic, Moorish/Mission Revival structure, dubbed the Hacienda or Milpitas Ranch House, was sold to the U.S. Army in 1940.

The Hacienda initially served as operations headquarters for Fort Hunter Liggett until the base facilities were constructed in the dawning days of WWII.

Today the Hacienda remains as a treasured historic icon on Army base tucked in a remote valley in the Santa Lucia Mountains in southern Monterey County adjacent to Mission San Antonio.

Come along and join correspondent Tom Wilmer and Lisa Cipolla, historian and Cultural Resources Program Manager at Army Garrison Fort Hunter Liggett for a tour of the Hacienda and tales from the past.

Hearst and his friends such as Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Marian Davies, Will Rogers, and Errol Flynn would come to party at the Hacienda. Today you can book an overnight stay in one of the historic rooms where the ranch hands bunked or maybe choose a romantic getaway in Marian Davies old upstairs suite.

This show was originally broadcast April 26, 2018 and is reshared as a "Best-of-the-best" broadcast from the archives of Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer's 31st anniversary of producing on-air travel shows at NPR affiliate KCBX and podcasts.



In the fall of 1990, correspondent Tom Wilmer spent time on the Rainbow Warrior II while the vessel and crew were in the midst of an environmental awareness campaign in British Columbia.  

Alegria Oceanfront Cottages

Join associate producer Molly Blaisdell and 30-year winemaker Jamie Hilgendorf for an exploration of Mendocino Coast’s coveted wine culture with the proprietors of Foursight Wines and Long Meadow Ranch Winery as well as the distinctive accommodations at Sheep Dung Properties and Alegria Oceanfront Inn & Cottages

Thomas Wilmer

  It all started back in 1930 when Nick Bullington was working as an advance man for Ringling Brothers Circus. He discovered a killer bowl of Chile while staying at a San Antonio Hotel. It was the Chili spurred Nick to open his own eatery in downtown Roanoke, Virginia--dubbed the Texas Tavern in homage to the San Antonio hostelry where he fell in love with the Chili.

Roederer Estates

Who knew Boonville, California would be the destination of an enviable and legendary sparkling wine enterprise with a centuries long French connection? Correspondent Molly Blaisdell and her associate Jamie Hilgendorf explore, taste and learn about Mendocino Coast’s legendary sparkling wines at Roederer Estates in Anderson Valley.

Courtesy Eric Alexiev

Correspondent Randi Hair reports from Templeton, California where she visits with Eric Alexiev who spent his formative years on the central coast. His father was born and raised in Bulgaria and Eric was immersed as a kid with the cuisine, culture, and stories shared by his father, Alex Alexiev, and Bulgarian friends at the dinner table. The capital city of Sophia and Bulgaria were ingrained in Eric’s thoughts as he grew up.

Join the journey to explore the past and present of Oakridge, Tennessee—the town that was dubbed Secret City as more than 75,000 workers settled in during WWII to develop the nuclear bomb. We’ll then stop in for a visit at Los Alamos National Labs, New Mexico (dubbed Atomic City) also formed in total secrecy during WWII to develop the first nuclear bomb.

Both towns continue high-tech research for the Department of Energy, including environmental issues, 3-D printing and much more. Not far from Los Alamos is White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico where the first plutonium bomb was detonated at Trinity Site in July 1945. Adjacent is White Sands National Park with the world’s largest array of white sand dunes where we visit with park rangers about cool things to do.

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer for a conversation with Dr. Penny Borenstein, San Luis Obispo County's Public Health Director about dealing with COVID-19 over the past year, and best hope scenarios looking in to the near-term future.

Underwriting support provided by Nashville's Big Back Yard economic initiative focused on rural communities in the southwest quarter of Tennessee and the Shoals Region of Northern Alabama.

Save the World Brewing Company

Quynh and David Rathkamp made a dramatic transition in their lives. They both gave up successful medical practices to save the world one beer at a time. 

They started the Save the World Brewing Company in Marble Falls, Texas and their business became the first 100 percent philanthropic production brewery in America with all net profits earmarked for worthy causes such as Habitat for Humanity and Meals on Wheels. 

Thomas Wilmer

Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Abe Marquez, president of the Foundation at Hearst Castle. Marquez shares insights about the foundation’s ongoing educational programs that inspire and empower young students from underserved communities via hands on STEAM programs. Marquez met with Wilmer at the historic Hacienda, designed to serve as William Randolph Hearst’s ranch headquarters by legendary architect Julia Morgan.

Thomas Wilmer

Join correspondent Tom Wilmer for an exploration of Kona Historical Society’s, Kona Coffee Living History farm, the onetime home of the Uchida Coffee farm founded in 1913. Discover how Kona coffee was grown and harvested by the pioneering Japanese farmers on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Randi Hair

Mercy Air's primary mission is to support U.S. Army Reserve operations at Fort Hunter Liggett but they also respond to civilian casualties in Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties. Mercy Air maintains a 24-hour presence for medevac service at Fort Hunter Liggett, with four crews and two helicopters.

Thomas Wilmer

 Join correspondent Tom Wilmer reporting from Chickamauga National Military Park at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia for a conversation with U.S. National Park Ranger Lee White. Specializing in the human aspects of the Civil War soldiers, Ranger White shares insights about what they ate, the clothes and boots they wore, the diseases that killed them by the thousands, and their emotional state of being as documented in their poignant letters home. 

Thomas Wilmer

Since the 2021 St. Patrick’s Festival Parade in Dublin, Ireland was cancelled due to the pandemic, we decided to time travel back to 2012 and repost our live on-location feature show about the breadth of festival activities as well as the illustrious parade’s history.

Thomas Wilmer

Join Wayne Craig with Visit Lodi and Kristina Swanson, executive director of the San Joaquin County Historical Society & Museum and Phillip Merlo, director of education. Lodi and the surrounding area has been an integral part of California’s agricultural endeavors since the dawning days of the Gold Rush.

Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel

The Mark Hopkins Intercontinental Hotel’s Top of the Mark has been the place to see and be seen in "The City by the Bay" since WWII. In addition to an array of signature libations and memorable cuisine, the Top of the Mark has also been a legendary San Francisco gathering spot for live music for close to a century.

Thomas Wilmer


The only country outside of Ireland that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day as a national holiday is the petite isle of Montserrat in the midst of the Eastern Caribbean. The British Overseas Territory’s flag is emblazoned with the Irish Harp and the words Erin along with a Union Jack in a corner. Pass through customs and your passport is stamped with a green Irish Clover.  

Thomas Wilmer

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, most travel destinations are closed to tourism, but don’t let that stop you from dreaming about the day when we can once again explore exotic destinations around the world.