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STARGAZERS<br><br><br><br>Gaping at celebrities may be a sport for some, but real stargazing is now offered on Orient-Express Safaris. In Botswana, guests at the Khwai River Lodge, Eagle Island Camp and Savute Elephant Camp can check out Africa’s...

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STARGAZERS

Gaping at celebrities may be a sport for some, but real stargazing is now offered on Orient-Express Safaris. In Botswana, guests at the Khwai River Lodge, Eagle Island Camp and Savute Elephant Camp can check out Africa’s night skies with Meade digital electronic telescopes that can capture 1,500 stars in one shot. In between watching some big game drinking and indulging in some five-star meals, safari-goers can take in four of the larger moons of Jupiter, Saturn’s rings and the Great Megellanic Cloud.

Those eyeing more tangible heavenly bodies can now jet off to Canyon Ranch Health Resorts in Tucson, Ariz., or in The Berkshires in Massachusetts on Blue Star Jets, which was selected as the private airline carrier for both locations. Once there, it won’t be all about burning off the love handles. A golf physical analysis and “Brain Wellness: Preventive Medicine for the Mind” are a few of the new activities.

KICKING BACK AT THE GYM

As more health clubs aim to give members the royal treatment with spa services, two New York gyms are upping the ante. With wintery temperatures holding steady in the Big Apple, Equinox is heating things up with an hour-long warming Phytomer cleansing mask. While getting a fresh face, spagoers slip their hands and feet into hot mitts and hot mud is slathered on the center of the back.

Traditionalists can try to raise their body temperature by exercising with the club’s new kettlebells or taking flight with Trip Equinox. Russian weightlifters were among the first to use the cast-iron weights for strength training. Shaped like a basketball with a handle, kettlebells are used in a variety of exercises. Through Trip Equinox, snowbirds can now sign up for group getaways to Costa Rica, Peru and other locales. But there’s also a six-week, pre-trip training program to help vacationers get ready for their excursions.

Eminence, a Hungarian skin care line, is the key ingredient for escapes at The Sports Club/LA Splash, the health club’s spa. The Nirvana facial is an 80-minute indulgence that includes a neck, shoulder and hand massage, and the 50-minute Eminence facial includes a dusting of organic products.

ACTING OUT AT THE SIERRA CLUB

For many, the Sierra Club conjures up images of moonlit snowy trails and green gift ideas, but Ansel Adams in a toga? That’s just what the famed photographer donned on more than one occasion, while employed by the club.

As a young man, Adams longed to spend his summers in Yosemite National Park, so he signed up as the Sierra Club’s custodian and eventually moved on to club photographer. In addition to manning the Sierra Club’s educational center there, he periodically led 80 people on a two-month trek and would entertain them at night by writing, directing and starring in Greek tragedies. Hence, the toga.

Johanna O’Kelley, director of licensing and membership marketing for the Sierra Club, recalled his 50-year affiliation with the group at last week’s launch party in New York for its first apparel line.

The photographer’s snapshots of the great outdoors will be featured in “Ansel Adams at 100,” an exhibition of his work on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art until May 11. In June, the show moves to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. To commemorate what would have been Adams’ centennial birthday last year, Ric Burns made a documentary about him.

As for the Sierra Club sportswear, the 80-piece women’s collection is licensed to Isda & Co., a San Francisco-based company, and should ring up about $4 million in wholesale volume in the first 18 months, O’Kelley said.

LIFE OUTSIDE THE FAST LANE

Industrial designer Yves Béhar hopes his latest creation will help drivers to lighten up before they get behind the wheel. His mood-lifter is MINI_motion, a collection of necessities for the urban traveler that play off the cheekiness of BMW’s MINI matchbox-sized car.

MINI cars have been on the road since 1959, with The Beatles, Kate Moss and David Bowie helping to raise their hipness. Less than a year after MINI re-entered the U.S. market, Béhar has developed MINI-inspired apparel, footwear, bags and accessories. Last year, Time magazine honored him for the Teflon-coated cashmere sweater he designed for Lutz & Patmos as one of the best designs of the year.

During a phone interview from his office at Fuseproject, the company he runs in San Francisco, Béhar said, “We’re driving more and more, but enjoying it less and less. It’s as though life inside the car gets disconnected from the life you lead outside the car.”

In other words, those everyday annoyances like a laptop that slides from the passenger seat each time you hit the breaks, can be avoided. What Béhar has come up with is part driving shoes, thanks to a Puma partnership, and a messenger bag that can be buckled into the passenger seat, compliments of Samsonite’s partnership. There is also a jacket with a flip-down pocket that allows the wearer to check out a map while walking around town.

“MINI is designed for everybody. It doesn’t just have high-end aspirational appeal,” he said.

Just as the automobile is known for its signature details, MINI_motion has finishing touches like a jacket with articulation on the elbows for drivers who like to lean against the car window, and on the seat for impromptu roadside breaks. MINI_motion will be shown at the Steven Alan showroom in Manhattan and hits stores this fall. For the women’s offerings, retail prices are expected to range from $100 for a long-sleeve T-shirt to $610 for a jacket.

Béhar has also collaborated with MINI and Puma designers in Germany to develop a customized car that will only be shown at select MINI dealers and Puma stores for MINI_motion’s launch. Rinat Aruh, lifestyle development manager of MINI, said, “MINI is all about destinations and going places. What’s cool about the car is it’s not just a car covered with Puma logos.”

SURF RIDES ANOTHER WAVE

Just when designers and athletic companies were getting a grip on surfing, it’s shifting to another extreme: tow surfing.

Instead of paddling out beyond the waves, surfers are hitching a ride by attaching a tow rope to a Jet Ski. The makeshift shuttle service enables surfers to catch larger waves, to triple the number of waves they ride and provides a rescuer in the event of a wipeout. More women are giving it a try on the North Shore of Maui in Hawaii, the hotbed for many surfwear trends.

Helping to take the sport to new heights, pro surfer Lane Beachley recently tow-surfed waves with a 30-foot face. All that turbulence requires a little extra protection. Cabrinhakites.com has developed a $200 impact vest that looks like a bulletproof vest but provides flotation and added protection, said tow-surfing pioneer Pete Cabrinha, who runs the company.

Female tow-surfers are suiting up in bikinis with printed halter tops and wide-leg bottoms to ensure coverage, said his wife. Lisa Letarte, the designer behind Letarte swimwear. Some are adding another layer by wearing rash guards over their impact vests.

“It’s pretty extreme,” Cabrinha said. “People are wearing things that won’t come off. The whole look is more technical than what you would see at a beach break, which is more playful.”

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