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The stork in the photo, its beak protruding from the torn plastic bag that enveloped its body, simply undid Cotati resident Andrea Vincent.

The bird's feathered head and body were trapped inside the windblown plastic, its rangy orange legs and beak sticking out as the creature rummaged through a garbage dump.

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey was clearly stricken, too, as she watched the image, turning into the camera repeatedly to comment on the painful picture shown during her Earth Day 2009 program.

"It was so disturbing. It upset me so greatly," said Vincent, an avid fan of "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

She was moved to act, and so was Oprah.

By the next day, Vincent was an inventor seeking to end the need for plastic bags. She came up with a reusable produce caddie that, 17 months later, is turning up in local markets such as Oliver's, Mollie Stone, Whole Foods, Fiesta Market and Andy's Produce, made by the nation's largest manufacturer of reusable bags.

The Veggie Bed also paid off in a different way, helping Vincent, 46, win a place in the audience of "ultimate viewers" who were assembled Monday for the premiere of Winfrey's 25th, farewell season. That's when she and her new audience friends learned they are headed to Australia in December with Winfrey and actor John Travolta, who will pilot the plane.

"Local Cotati girl..." Vincent mused during a recent interview. "It's a dream come true."

The entire experience has been surreal for Vincent, from learning she could watch Winfrey tape a show, to a whirlwind, two-day trip to Chicago, to Winfrey's suspenseful build-up for the big giveaway: a free trip Down Under.

"The smiles and the excitement and the stunned looks on people's faces after we found out," Vincent said. "It was really, really exciting."

The mother of two and owner of MoonDoggy Ranch, a daycare and boarding facility for dogs, filled out vacation preferences for the trip Thursday with her husband, David Vincent, who gets to go with her.

She also sat for her first passport photo.

"I used to suffer from panic attacks, so I was never able to do much travel. So it's a full circle for me," she said.

But Vincent said Winfrey's show has inspired a whole new focus in her life as a partner in The Veggie Bed Company with friend Carlos Leet, a Petaluma attorney and co-creator.

She had a vague notion of reusable alternatives to plastic bags, but it wasn't until Vincent saw Winfrey's show about the Pacific Gyre, one of several huge areas where circular currents sweep tons of plastic bags and other marine litter into giant ocean "garbage patches," that she felt moved to do something about it.

By the next day, she had conceived a rough pattern, cut apart a reusable grocery bag and given the parts to her husband to sew into a compartmentalized caddy.

She then talked to Leet, who has patent litigation experience, and he helped improve the design with individual, mesh-sided "pods" that fit in the caddy.

The current product is made of washable non-woven polypropylene fabric that has been stiffened and fabricated to organize and protect produce. The company estimates that most families use about 500 plastic produce bags a year; one Veggie Bed can replace them all.

While neither Winfrey nor Harpo Productions has endorsed the product, producers were apparently impressed that Vincent was inspired to take action.

Vincent applied in writing to be one of Winfrey's "ultimate viewers," explaining how she responded to the plight of the stork in the 2009 program. About two weeks ago she got a phone call in response seeking additional information. The next day she got another call inviting her to watch a taping, though no mention was made of the season premiere.

And though it seemed like her family budget might not stretch to cover the hotel and airfare for two, Vincent's friends were so insistent that she decided to go for it.

The day of the Sept. 9 taping was like taking part in a mystery, she said, with 300 fans at the studio all wondering what was in store.

"People were sharing their stories on and off camera, and it just was very moving," Vincent said.

They were in the studio before Winfrey started hinting that they were the lucky ones attending the season premiere.

Their host, who is well known for giveaways that have included cars for each audience member, referenced a trip to Pittsburgh she had taken with one audience, then started teasing about destinations like New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

Winfrey noted that her 25th year was "really my last chance to do something really big ... so I started to think about where I would most want to go.

"Maybe I should take all of you with me to the other side of the worlddddddd!!!" she said suddenly. "We're going to Australia! We're going to Australia!"

Stage hands then wheeled out a scaled down jet fuselage from which a uniformed Travolta stepped to salute the audience.

David Vincent said it was he who "freaked out" at the news of Australia and Travolta, "commercial airline pilot, actor extraordinaire...a total stud."

His wife, he said, sat right down, covered her face and began to fret. "What about the kids? What about the kids?"

"She didn't know that we weren't leaving right then, because (Winfrey) is known for marching people out of the studio and right onto a bus," he said.

At the commercial break, Winfrey made clear the week long trip was scheduled in December, and Vincent finally relaxed enough to get excited.

Winfrey plans to broadcast two shows from the trip, and Vincent's new goal is to speak on camera from the Great Barrier Reef, "talking about the oceans and how we can help," she said.

"I'm so ready."

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