The Run Around: Volcanos, Vines and Valentines

In the course of a day, my e-mail inbox is bombarded with invitations to this and that. Here are a smattering of opportunities, if you feel like running around.

It has only been a few months since Amboy Crater and Lava Field in the Mojave Desert became more accessible to the public, making it easier for the public to visit this fascinating remnant of a cone volcano. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has just finished paving an access road from historic Route 66, put in parking lots at the crater viewing area and the trailhead. The improvements complement an elevated viewing structure and shaded picnic areas. This extinct volcano is located between Barstow to the west and Needles to the east. It’s roughly a two-mile hike to the crater and back and winter is a great time to visit the desert.



By Kevin Wong

 While you’re there, stop by Kevin Wong’s Dry Heat Studio in Joshua Tree. Kevin is a multi-talented artist who finds inspiration from the desert. He paints, carves and takes photos. Contact him in advance at kevin@dryheatstudio.com

On a desert sojourn, consider treating yourself and someone special to a romantic rendezvous at Thornton Winery, in Riverside County’s Temecula Valley. The family winery is offering a sumptuous Valentine’s dinner, Feb. 12. $85 per person. The intimate, adults only event, will feature strolling violins, lots of champagne, intriguing wine caves and spectacular views of the Temecula Valley. Reservations Required. (951) 699-0099

In Mayacamas Mountains that straddle Sonoma and Lake counties, hiking enthusiast Bill Myers leads fun, casual and up-close hikes through the 1,850-acre volcanic and vertical landscapes on the Kunde Family Estate. Great opportunity to see sustainable winegrowing practices at work while taking in some of wine country’s most spectacular, but sometimes overlooked, scenery. Upcoming hikes are offered Feb. 26 a nd March 26. Taste wines along the way in the very vineyards where the grapes are grown. This moderately strenuous hike starts at 10 a.m. and lasts about four hours. Reservations at kunde.com



Santa Ynez Valley farm

 The Santa Ynez Valley Wine Around is scheduled for Feb. 14-15. The Wine Around features two days of wine and barrel tastings paired with gourmet hors d’oeuvres at the Bridlewood Estate Winery, Fess Parker Vineyard & Winery and Foley Estates Vineyard & Winery; and conversations with the vintners, entertainment, delicious dining at the Chumash Casino Resort plus deluxe transportation between all the activities. Tickets are $125 per person; available online at www.SantaYnezValleyVisit.com/winearound.



The Reader sculpture by Seward Johnson

 The 19th annual School Street Wine Stroll celebrates the arrival of ten life-size colored bronze sculptures created by internationally known artist, Seward Johnson. The sculptures will be placed throughout School Street in the historic area of downtown Lodi where the Wine Stroll takes place. Over 25 Lodi wineries will be pouring their wines in shops and boutiques on Friday, April 15 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. More info at http://www.lodichamber.com

Enough running around? Well, settle back with Curiosities of Literature by professor and well-known book reviewer John Sutherland. He’ll tell you some of the biggest blunders in literary history and explore the aftermath of drinking and dining with six pages on farting in literature. Some may think such ephemera as Allen Ginsberg’s alleged last word (“Toodle-oo”) to be unworthy topics for the Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern Literature at University of College London, but those who love books and writers usually are fascinated.

He’ll tell you The Great Gatsby is the most assigned book in American high schools and that 15th-century English author of “Le Morte d’Arthur” — served prison time for gang rape. Want believe-it-or-not? Mickey Spillane dashed off his first Mike Hammer novel in nine days, and it went on to sell 7 million copies in three years. And Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, smoked a breathtaking 500 cigarettes a week: more than 3½ packs a day. Cheesh! From Skyhorse Publishing. 273 pp. $22.95. Order from Amazon.com
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