‘Riding Shotgun’ Takes Viewers On A Comic Travel Adventure

Have you ever watched a travel show and felt that the glossy representation of the destination was just a little bit too perfect? As though real travel, with all its crazy, kooky experiences, was so much more than that? That’s exactly how Zach Anner – a self-confessed goofball – felt about travel, and his passion for all things offbeat has led to his own web travel show, “Riding Shotgun.”

Zach is wheelchair bound after being born with cerebral palsy, but that hasn’t stopped the Texas-based 28-year-old from quenching his thirst for adventure and seeing the world.

Zach, who has a background in standup comedy, became an Internet sensation in 2010 after he entered Oprah’s search for the next TV star. After briefly starring in his own TV show for the OWN network, Zach turned his attention to his new project, “Riding Shotgun.”The web-based comedy travel series takes viewers on a quirky cross-country trip. Reddit readers got to call the shots on where Zach and his team would go and how they’d spend their time in each city. We’re happy to report that Zach is hosting some of his excellent show over at AolOn, our video network.

Check out the videos and get to know this fun travel host.

Oprah’s lucky audience lands in Australia, begins eight-day adventure

There are a number of times we wish we’d been audience members on Oprah, but none more so than the day when she gave away a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Australia to celelbrate her 25th and final season.

Dubbed “Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure,” the journey for 302 lucky individuals officially begins today as show members arrived on a 747 in Sydney, Australia.

The audience members hail from 38 U.S. states, as well as 13 from Canada and one from Jamaica. Audience members will be staying at Intercontinental Sydney, their home for the duration of their stay in the harbour city.

Comprising 242 women and 60 men, including 48 couples, and ranging in age from 18 to 75, the audience will travel throughout Australia, with various groups visiting all eight Australian states and territories. Following their excursions, the audience members will reunite for two tapings of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” at Sydney Opera House on December 14. The programmes are scheduled to air in the U.S. in syndication in January 2011.

Said Andrew McEvoy, Managing Director, Tourism Australia, “We are thrilled that viewers of these shows will get to see a broad spectrum of life throughout Australia, with all eight states and territories on the itinerary. We’re proud to welcome Oprah’s ultimate audience members to Australia.”

Oprah Winfrey introduces Yosemite National Park to her audience

When it comes to influential television personalities it is difficult to top Oprah Winfrey. After all, the queen of daytime television has been making authors rich for years with her book club and its no secret that her endorsement of a product, sends her audience out to the shopping malls. Now, the National Park Service is hoping they’ll be the recipients of a little Oprah magic thanks to two high profile episodes about her recent camping trip to Yosemite National Park.

Oprah, along with her best friend, the ever-present Gayle King, spent a week in Yosemite awhile back, “roughing it” in a pop-up RV and exploring the stunning landscapes that the park is so well known for. They also found some time to do a little fly fishing, go hiking, and even cooked their meals over an open fire. The first episode of Oprah’s camping adventure aired last Friday and the second is due to be broadcast today. (Check local listings to see when it airs in your area.)

The excursion came about after Ranger Shelton Johnson, who has spent 18 years working for the Park Service, wrote to Oprah asking her to consider visiting Yosemite. Johnson, who is African-American, told the talk show host that not enough black people visited the parks, and that perhaps she could help change that with a visit of her own. With African-Americans making up less than 2% of the visitors, Oprah has her work cut out for her, but these two episodes may bring Yosemite some much needed exposure. It is likely that for many viewers, these shows are giving them their first ever glimpse the place.

Encompassing more than 1200 square miles of California wilderness, Yosemite is best known for it’s legendary rock formations, Half Dome and El Capitan, both of which are popular draws for rock climbers. The park also offers beautiful alpine meadows, giant sequoia trees, and deep mountain valleys, allowing visitors to hike more than 750 miles of trail or bike the 12 stunning miles of the Yosemite Valley. For adventure travelers it is quite the outdoor playground and visitors who just come to take in the view will find plenty to love as well.

As for Oprah, it’s unlikely that she’ll be back soon. While it seems that she and Gayle had a reasonably good time on their outdoor adventure, she did tell her audience “I’d never do that again” in reference to their camp out. I guess we can’t expect her to be hiking the Appalachian Trail after she retires from television next year, huh?

[Photo credit: Oprah.com]

Oprah fails to rescue Australian tourism

Tourism is underwater in Australia, and it looks like even the most powerful woman in the world can’t turn it around. Originally, the country’s Tourism and Transport Forum thought Oprah Winfrey’s visit to Australia would be great for tourism, attracting visitors from around the world. Well, it looks like early expectations are being revisited. While Australians are still leaving the country on vacation in record numbers, the rest of the world isn’t returning the favor.

Overnight visits to Australia fell 1 percent for the year ending June 2010, according to the National Visitor Survey. But, visitor nights were up 0.4 percent and total spending climbed 1.9 percent – so, there is something of a silver lining here.

Before we decide that Oprah didn’t deliver, however, keep in mind that the number of visitors form the United States surged 8 percent. So, the talk show queen may still surprise the folks down under.

[photo by nayrb7 via Flickr]

Oprah says good-bye to Chicago

Did you hear the new rumor about Oprah Winfrey? No, not that one! This one says that come 2011, her daytime talk show will leave Chicago and be based out of Los Angeles.

According to Deadline Hollywood, the big O planned on calling it quits way back in 2002, then again in 2006. At that point she renewed her syndication contracts through 2011. But now, it looks like she’ll be moving the show from national syndication to her very own OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) station.

While there’s no denying that Oprah’s success is a positive force for Chicago tourism (even those who can’t get the coveted tickets for her show will make the pilgrimage out to Harpo Studios to take a tour or shop at the Oprah Store), the daytime diva hasn’t really been all that connected with Chicago for many years. Sure, she tapes the show here, she flies in for special events, and she lobbied (unsuccessfully) for Chicago’s Olympic bid, but other than that, she doesn’t spend a whole lot of time here, preferring instead her gigantic estate in Montecito, California.

For tourists and die-hard Oprah fans, I’m sure she will be missed. For residents (especially those who had their commutes disrupted when she closed down the streets for her massive season launch party), it’s sad to lose an icon, but hey, we’ve still got the Sears Tower…..oh, wait, nevermind.

According to “entertainment insiders”, Oprah’s company will make the announcement outlining her plans to move, sometime in the next six months.