Posts tagged ‘Ashton Kutcher’

Forever crushing it in Lodi, California: A selfie scavenger hunt

John Fogerty couldn’t have been more wrong. “Being stuck in Lodi” was one of the highlights of my travel schedule this year. lodi 2

Not only is Lodi the largest wine appellation in California (it grows more grapes than Napa and Sonoma combined), but it’s a cinch to get to, is a thousand times less pretentious and makes wine that rivals and often surpasses its more celebrated (and more expensive) brethren. Take it from Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis who chose to spend part of their 2015 honeymoon in this Central Valley wine region.

And to prove just how misleading Fogerty’s “Oh lord” lyric is,” I offer this selfie scavenger hunt. The first person to post selfies of themself and the following six Lodi “must-see and do’s,” wins a copy of my three National Geographic books on meaningful vacations. To post your selfies, simply go to my 222 Travel Scavenger Hunt FB page here.

1. Get a selfie with one of the 12 exotic birds at Wine & Roses. Most people come to this luxury resort for the food (two-time James Beard winner Chef Bradley Ogden ditched San Francisco to oversee the culinary offerings here), the spa or the laid-back vibe of this gorgeous seven-acre, 66-room resort. Ashton and Mila aren’t the only celebs who parked at Wine & Roses while exploring Lodi’s 85 plus local wineries. Will Smith has also signed the guest book and enjoyed the nightly live music. As for the parrots, cockatoos and other exotic birds, owner Russ Munson who, along with his wife Kathryn, transformed this historic 1898 Towne House into this ooh-la-la resort, is an amateur ornithologist.


2. Get your freak on at Michael David. You’ve probably heard of this winery’s 7 Deadly Zins (this award-winning Zinfandel was recently sold to a giant international distributor) or its winemaker (Adam Mettler, who Wine Enthusiast pegged as 2018 winemaker of the year), but did you know it also sells ginormous, salivation-inducing fruit pies and the best green chile chicken enchiladas this side of the Rio Grande? Despite San Joaquin County law forbidding wineries to also offer restaurants, Michael David’s Farm Café was grandfathered in, mainly because they’ve been dishing up pies longer than there has been a wine commission. For this selfie, simply download Michael David’s freak show app, take your picture as a bearded lady or a trapeze artist or one of the other circus freaks. Who knows you might even make it onto a label of one of their wildly-popular Freak Show wines? As marketing guy, James Boore says, “We make serious wines in not so serious bottles.”


3. Snap a selfie with your jelly bean at a Calivirgin olive oil tasting. Jelly bean? Say what? Before you so much as sample one of Calivirgin’s lime jalapeno or blood orange or white truffle-flavored olive oils, you’ll be asked to hold your nose and sample a tiny red jelly bean. It proves your palate is greatly influenced by your sense of smell. This family run olive oil biz that offers weekly olive oil tastings and tours of the organic estate and mill also proved to me that most of what passes for olive oil is an inferior and dull imposter. Maybe that’s why this family’s fresh, fruity olive oils have already pulled down an astronomical 578 awards.


4. Get a selfie at the Lodi Lake Boathouse. Dan Arbuckle, the evil genius behind Headwaters Kayak, loves nothing more than introducing newbies to the pleasure of paddling the scenic waters of Lodi Lake and Mokelumne River. He and his young, friendly staff can put you in touch with local paddling clubs, lead you on spectacular moonlight paddles, offer free instruction if you have your own boat or rent you one if you don’t. Thanks to Arbuckle’s popular YouTube channel which has more subscribers than the town has population, his reputation goes way beyond the Central Valley paddling community. Extra points if your selfie captures the swimming deer.


5. Get creative in a selfie with a wine you’ve not yet tried. Cab Schmab! Zin Schmin! Because farmland in the Lodi appellation is a whole lot cheaper than farmland in say Napa, winemakers are free to experiment with different varieties of grapes and innovative techniques for making wine. Lodi winemakers have no reason to play it safe. A good bet for claiming your selfie with a never-before-sampled wine is Bokisch Vineyards, recently proclaimed Winery of the Year by Visit Lodi! Markus and Liz Bokisch, from their 400-acre, all-organic estate, have introduced wine lovers to more than a dozen award-winning Iberian grape varieties from Albarino and Garnachas to Tempranillo and Graciano. Since first planting in 1999, the Bokischs have been at the forefront of the sustainable grower movement with their two certified organic vineyards, Terra Alta and Las Cerezas.


6. Lose the helmet for this selfie of you on a bike on one of Bike Lodi’s 22 really fun, really flat routes. Whether you want to end up at winery (I ended my tour at Oak Farm Winery where I was greeted by Bernie, the winery mascot) or head to the wetlands of the Cosumnes River Preserve, it’s a given that you’ll be cycling through stunning wine country with what has to be some of the nicest volunteers in the world. In addition to the many well-thought-out trails, Bike Lodi volunteers sponsor bike rodeos, offer free bike valet services and host the annual Giro D’Vino bike tour.

Can’t wait to see the excited looks on your faces in your Lodi Scavenger Hunt selfies which you can upload here.


The perks of being a Virgin Galactic Bransonaut

I’m on rutted, dirt roads in the Jornada del Muerto desert of southern New Mexico headed to Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport. It’s adjacent to White Sands Missile Range where, for 70 some years, assorted rockets, nuclear bombs and other WMDs have been tested.

My useless GPS reports this 3,200 square miles of restricted air space as one monstrous black hole. I’d have never found Spaceport Operations Center (SOC, for short) or Virgin Galactic’s Gateway to Space if it wasn’t for Aaron Prescott, the rocket scientist whose college friends can’t help but break the tenth commandment: “Thou Shall Not Covet.”

They’re insanely jealous, he says, of his position as Business Operations Manager for New Mexico’s $209 million entry into global commercial spaceflight. He works with madcap entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson — whose left eye is on the security badge required to get into the New Mexico Space Authority (NMSA) — and other aerospace firms contracted to fly from this remote high desert location. Prescott calls it the Kitty Hawk of space travel.

Since 2006, 17 rockets have been launched here — “Unmanned, so far,” Prescott says. “We want to make sure people are buying roundtrip tickets.” — and 551 have slapped down $200,000 for Virgin Galactic’s three days of astronaut training and two hours in space. ‘Course, that’s chump change for the likes of Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber and Kate Winslett, to name a few of the already-paids who probably make that in, say 10 minutes of “Two and a Half Men.”

Mixing it up with celebrities is just one of the perks. Here are five more:

1. Free Drinks at the Astronauts Lounge. When you’re Katy Perry, another who forked over $200 grand, you tend to travel with an entourage. Minions are more than welcome to hang out at the Spaceport, clap when you blast off, even follow your every G-force on giant monitors — “We could probably configure the flights with an iPhone app,” Prescott says, “But you gotta put on a show.” — but the spacesuit dressing room and third-floor lounge with the free champagne? That’s for Bransonauts only.

2. Five minutes of being weightless. Much of the two-hour flight involves getting to the other side of the Karman Line, the line that divides earth’s atmosphere from outer space. But at 60 miles up, you can see 1,500 to 2,000 miles in all directions or, to put it in perspective, that’s a view of the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico at the same time.

3. No need to be a perfect specimen of humanity. Qualifying for NASA requires brains like Einstein, 1,000 hours of in-command flight time and the ability to pass a rigorous physical. Only an elite few make it in. As a Bransonaut, you don’t even need a pressure suit. “At three and a half to six Gs, it’s like a really awesome roller coaster,” Prescott says, adding that at nine Gs, you’d black out.

4. Bragging rights. Being the first to get your Boy Scout “Space Badge” is nothing compared to the VIP invitations to Branson’s private Caribbean island home or his South African game reserve. Last year, for example, he held an Astronaut Forum, a tour of the LEED Gold 110,000-square-foot Virgin Galactic terminal and dinner at Mesilla’s historic Double Eagle steakhouse.

5. 360-degree skies. I’d pit the sunset in southern New Mexico to any painting in any art museum anywhere.

For the rest of us, Follow the Sun offers a three-hour, $59 bus tour.

Pam Grout is the author of E-Squared, 9 Do-it-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality. Find out more at