Shannon Taylor Vannatter – Romantic Destination – Road Trip Texas – Part 1 of 1

Shannon here: Today, I’m sharing my recent vacation/research trip. I’m celebrating a three book contract for three more rodeo books to continue right where Rodeo Ashes leaves off. Comment on any post dated Sept 3 – 8 for a chance to win a copy of winner’s choice of my three rodeo books: Rodeo Dust, Hero, or Ashes. I have my author copies of Rodeo Ashes now, so there won’t even be a delay, except for the time it takes me to make it to the PO. Deadline: Sept 15th, 11:59 pm central time.

Our itenerary included Aubrey, Fort Worth for book signings, San Antonio to see family, and Centerville for a wild boar hunt.

We know we’re officially in Texas when we stop at the Bass Pro in Garland. This phenomenon boggles me. My husband doesn’t hunt and our son likes to fish, except for the hog hunt, but I’ll get to that later. Yet they spend hours in Bass Pro.

I pass the time taking pictures of all the poor, dead animals and browsing the home decor. Though I’d never, ever decorate my house with deer antlers, I find it fascinating that some people do. Antler light switch covers, toilet paper holders, and lamps. Camo breadspreads–they even have pink and lavender now. After a while, I find a bench to pass the time away. Usually near the acquarium and watch the catfish as big as my son.

This year I decided to measure our son’s growth by the Kodiak Bear. The picture on the left was taken November 2011 and he thought it was cool. On the right is July 2012 and he had to be cajoled into posing for mom. Even with the clowning last year, my mother’s eye hones in on the fact that his head is well above the bear’s paw this year.

Back on the road, we landed at Moms on Main in Aubrey for book signing #1. Moms is a great family restaurant where my characters eat and I do too when I’m there. Owners Steve and Krys Murray rolled out the red carpet once more. My family satisfied our taste buds with Philly Beef and Swiss sandwiches and ice cream sundaes. I had to button my jacket because I dripped sauce down my blouse.

I didn’t get to see my friend, Nancy Trammel Downs this trip. But I made a new friend, Kathy Ramsey, the librarian. She sat through almost the whole signing with me. I actually had to make her leave since I figured she had something better to do. And once again, the Murray’s bought books to sell in their restaurant.

I didn’t get to walk around and take pictures since the signing was at night. I saw the Ever After Chapel again and realized that with three more books, I can fit it in. I’m thinking it will fit the characters in Rodeo Regrets–book #4 in the series.

The next day, we headed to Fort Worth Stockyards to the Texas  Cowboy Hall of Fame Museum for signing #2. On the way, we saw a Cabela’s. Of course my guys wanted to go there, so I suggested we eat at the Stockyards and then they could go back to Cabela’s and more importantly, I could skip it.

We planned to eat at the Love Shack. My characters in Rodeo Hero do, so we wanted to try it, plus our son loves exotic food. He wanted to try the Dirty Yard Bird Classic–chicken breast sandwich topped with wild boar meat, and a sunny side up quail egg. But traffic crept along and we didn’t get there in time. We decided to snack and eat after the signing.

I met lots of nice people at the museum and watched several couples and families get their pictures taken in the old fashioned photography studio. Modern women morphed into saloon girls while the men became gun slingers. I didn’t get to walk around the museum and take any pictures. Once the signing was over, I wanted to get on the road to meet my friend Linda for supper and make it to Medina where our trip would culminate in vacation with family.

By the time we got my books loaded, my guys were hot and had learned the Love Shack is an outdoor restaurant. It was really hot. They never went to Cabela’s, just walked the streets and shopped at the Stockyards, so they were hot. We went back to Cabela’s. Boy was I excited.

But it turned out to be interesting. Cabela’s are similar to Bass Pro, but different. They had a whole elephant and a rhino–oh my! They also had a cafe with exotic meat. My son got to have a wild boar deli sandwich. He also tried elk and buffalo jerky. He thought that was awesome and all the meat was tasty. The wild boar meat especially–it tasted like ham, but a lot sweeter.

I checked out all the home interior and actually had an idea for book #5. My hero ill have a cabin decorated with Cabela’s and Bass Pro ambiance. I finally found a bench near the acquariams. A few minutes later, a lady came and sat on the bench across from me. She said, “This is different, isn’t it?”

I knew exactly what she meant and got so tickled. Usually it’s the men waiting on the benches in stores while the women shop. Then I got a text message from Linda wanting to know where we were and what time we’d be meeting her for supper. She was three hours away and we should have been there by that time. But, we’d gotten stranded in Cabela’s and I was so road-weary, book signing weary, and dead animal-weary, I forgot my schedule. We changed our plans to Starbucks. It was great seeing her, but we didn’t get to visit long enough, and I still feel horrible for forgetting her.

We landed in Medina the next day in time for church with my husband’s step mom. We spent a few quiet restful days at her ranch and then spent a day in San Antonio. We didn’t go to the Alamo since we’d been there before. Since book #5 has a Texas Ranger hero, we found a Texas Ranger museum. It was interesting  and detailed a lot of the history of the Texas Rangers. Since I write contemporaries, I didn’t take any pictures. Book #5 visits a Medina ranch too.

Later, I had a brainstorm. At a pivotal point in the book, my characters will visit the museum. Boy do I wish I had some pictures. We visited the Buckhorn Museum which is in the same building. Lots more dead animals. I figured I had enough pictures of dead critters, so I didn’t take anymore.

Texas mom cooked deer meat, wild boar sausage and pork chops for us and invited her cousin to bring squirrel and dumplings. It was all quite tasty and our son loved it. We’d asked her to find some rattlesnake, but I guess it was too hot for them to come out. My husband and I ate rattlesnake several years ago at a Texas festival and it was the best, most tender, sweetest meat I’ve ever eaten.

On the way home, we stopped at a Bass Pro and a Cabela’s we’d missed on the way there, but I got more ideas involving lavender camo. Next stop, Centerville for a wild boar hunt.

For several years, our son has watched hunting shows on TV. He loves the wild boar hunts and started asking if he and my husband could go on one. We tried to set it up last year when we visited Texas, but it just didn’t come together. This time, we found the Langley Ranch in Centerville. It was on our way home and this time everything worked out.

Our son was so excited, especially as we got closer to our destination. The closest hotel was twenty minutes away and inconvenient. The cabin at the ranch was already rented, so I prepared to sit in the truck and burn gas to run the air conditioning. It was still hot. I had moaned for days that the Olympics had started during our vacation and I missed most of the first few days.

When the owner of the ranch realized I planned to sit in the truck, he insisted I go to his house. No one was home. He didn’t know us. I could have robbed him blind while my husband and son pretended to hunt. That’s Texas hospitality. I sat in an air conditioned house and watched the Olympics. Actually slept a little. By this time, I was really road-weary.

Time dragged on and I didn’t hear anything from Grant. Our son was so excited and we were both worried he wouldn’t get a boar and he’d be disappointed. I finally texted for an update. I got the picture above back. Our son was beside himself and I think Grant was even more so.

On the way home, with hog meat in two coolers and the critter’s head in another so we can have it stuffed, they told me all about it. Grant whispered through the whole thing. Three or four hogs ran past several times, but they never stopped. Finally, another one joined them and they ran past and up a ridge. The new one stopped. They could only see about four inches of the top of it’s back. We’d been told that the top of their backs are mostly hair, so not to shoot there.

Grant told our son if he wanted to he could shoot it, but if he didn’t think it was a good shot, they could– Blam, the hog fell. Our son dropped it, right through it’s backbone. Tough shot and they were both so proud. The perfect ending to a great family vacation.

Are you wondering where the romance is in this post about our trip and lots of dead animals? It’s in my husband’s willingness to mix some book promotion with our trip. It’s in his constant lugging my books around from one place to another. It’s my willingness to spend hours in Bass Pro and Cabela’s. It’s in the special closeness we shared in making our son’s dream come true.

Breaking news: Heartsong Presents titles will be available in Walmart, Kmart, and Meijers soon. Rodeo Ashes will arrive in October. I’m excited! If you don’t want to wait, order here: http://www.harlequin.com/storeitem.html?iid=26551&cid

Come back Sept 7th for Donn Taylor!

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