Since I started writing, whenever we go on vacation, a book begins to percolate. I often plan our trips around a jaunt I need to make for a book I’m writing. Back when I began my rodeo series, we visited the Fort Worth Stockyards and Aubrey, Texas. Both featured prominently in the series. Since we have family in the San Antonio area, it was easy to visit both sites on the way to see them. In fact, the first time we visited the stockyards, Texas Mom – my husband’s stepmom, met us there since she’d never been. She was telling me something and my mind was wandering, envisioning scenes I’d write. My husband said, “Don’t try to talk to her until later, she’s not really here with us right now.” For some reason visiting places that end up in my books, I often end up with a couple fighting. When we visited the Cowtown Cattlepen Maze at the stockyards, I thought, wow, what would happen if a couple got into an argument in the maze and couldn’t find their way out to escape each other. That scene ended up in Rodeo Hero.
When our church gifted us fully paid vacation trip, I had no intention of setting a book around the experience. We set out on a Monday with an entire week free to explore. This was our first trip, just the two of us, in 19 years. Though we tried to get our son to go with us, he’s working now and our schedules didn’t work out. The first night, we stayed in Memphis at the Big Cypress Lodge at Bass Pro in the Pyramid. We’d stayed there for our son’s 18th birthday a few years ago and really enjoyed it. This time, we got a room with a balcony overlooking the store. It was so peaceful, listening to the waterfall. Our balcony was fashioned like a screened porch–with air conditioning. I could have stayed there all week, so relaxing. I jokingly call Bass Pro Hotel California–you can check in any time you like, but you can never leave because my husband and son can spend an entire day there. After I check out housewares, I end up sitting on the bench watching the ginormous fish in the aquarium or relaxing in the recliners. Staying there is awesome. When I got tired of waiting, I went to our room and sat on the balcony.
During the trip, we ate at fun places: Westy’s, where I ate the spiciest gumbo ever and we experienced world-famous Hot Fudge Pie. It was pretty incredible. LBOE – Last Burger on Earth, it was pretty impressive. Day 2, we drove to Lexington, which is about 45 minutes from the final destination of our trip, The Ark Experience.
It was fittingly raining cats and dogs the day we arrived at the Ark. My hero drove an extra mile to buy me an umbrella. My hair is stick straight, but if it gets wet, it fuzzes. And it doesn’t stop fuzzing until I wash it again. He knows I won’t melt, but my hair will. Umbrella in hand, we arrived at the Ark. First up was an open air pavilion style structure, with no bathroom, where we bought our tickets. From there, we rode a bus to the gift shop, where the bathrooms are, and a really yummy coffee bar. We browsed the gift shop and I was kind of disappointed. There wasn’t a whole lot there. The ark is a pretty good, winding jaunt from the gift shop, but I had my trusty umbrella.
It’s definitely an experience. You walk a ramp the length of the Ark – 510 feet – to get inside the ark. Once inside, there are 3 more 510 feet ramps that take you to each level. If you ever get to go, wear comfortable shoes. Thankfully, we did. Each level is fascinating. The storage and living quarters were what impressed me. Every available space was used. Of course, we don’t know if the real Ark was anything like this one, but it all made perfect sense.
3D printed animals of every kine imaginable, along with some that no longer exist. A woodworking shop, living quarters for each family member, food, water, supply storage. Each family member is fleshed out and given a name and fictional story to bring them to life and make them seem more like real people. I took tons of pictures, but the entire time, I knew I could never do it justice, and kept thinking, they need to have a picture book we can buy. Thankfully, once you make it back down the 3 levels, there’s a fourth ramp where we ended up in the mothership of gift shops. Where, I found just the book.
I don’t know how anyone could go there an unbeliever and walk out the same way. Or not grow closer to God during the experience. And all the while, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, seeing amazing things with my husband, a story percolated. What if a couple was forced to go to the Ark together and their relationship is falling apart? I haven’t got it all worked out yet, but it’s coming to me.
On the way home, The Blacksmith, where I had a BLTP – Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, & homemade Pimento cheese on deep fried bread. Yum. I’m thinking my fictional couple will eat, stay, and visit all the places we did.
Our next destination is Surfside Beach, Texas and Comfort, Texas. Both are for research and we’ll end up at Texas Mom’s in the Hill Country area. We haven’t set our trip date yet, but before fall. When I told Texas Mom about the research I need to do, she said, “What does the beach have to do with Comfort and cowboys. Two different books.
Have you been to the Ark Experience or do you want to go? Does traveling inspire you? Tell me about your travel experiences for a chance to win a copy of The Cowboy’s Missing Memory. Giveaway deadline: July 5th.