Welcome to Texas USA
Welcome to Texas USA

Road trips, Rentals, Rodeos

You might have noticed that, until this point in the blog, we’ve been city-hopping across the USA. Although it’s an efficient way to visit as many of the must-see places as possible (and we have seen some amazing things!), we didn’t feel like we were seeing the ‘real’ America. So, after New Orleans, we decided to hire a car and drive roughly 2,000 miles across five different states to get to our next city stop – Las Vegas.

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Road trip!It was exhausting, sometimes stressful (see the notes on American driving below) and a little more costly than our greyhound and budget hostel routine, but it was totally worth it. It gave us a huge amount of freedom to go off the beaten track and explore, and we got to see some incredible things that we would never have been able to experience taking flights or buses everywhere.

The first hurdle was finding a rental car that didn’t charge a hefty one-way fee (a charge rental companies whack on top of your rental to cover costs of getting the vehicle back to point A again). Kayak was an amazing website we found that allowed us to compare prices for lots of different companies. It also looked into pick-up and drop-off locations that aren’t the obvious choices, like airports, to make the rental even cheaper. After picking up a Chevy Spark from Hertz just outside NOLA (with no one-way fee!), we were ready to start our trip.

Before we left Louisiana for good, we wanted to get out into the countryside and visit one of its many historic plantations. We were keeping one wary eye on the weather news, which was forecasting severe thunder storms right across the state after our last week of glorious sunshine.With all that rain in mind, we decided to get as close as we could to the plantation we wanted to see – the picturesque Oak Alley Plantation – by staying overnight in nearby Thibadoux. We made it to our motel in time to see the first flashes of lightning as the storms rolled in – and they were big’uns. It didn’t take long for the storm to develop right over the motel. The lightning was like a strobe – with one flash after another over and over again – the thunder was deafening and the rain was HEAVY. In the morning we heard on the news that our area was already under a flood warning and there was even a tornado warning in place for the highway we were planning to take later in the day.

It’s not terribly clear from the picture, but this was the TV weather report basically saying to stay away from the path of the tornado that was a few miles north of us!We made it over to Oak Alley Plantation during a break in the rain, only to find that it was closed to the public while they dealt with some flooding issues. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long and, after getting some pictures of the impressive Big House through the renowned tree-lined drive it was named after, we were able to enter the premises to take a tour of the grounds.
Oak Alley Plantation, named after the 500-year-old oaks that line the pathway to the Big House

Another of the things we wanted to experience on our visit to the USA was a real rodeo. With some quick online research, we found that a small town in Texas called Mount Pleasant was holding one the next day. After driving through some very heavily flooded areas in Louisiana that had seen up to 10ins of rain, we headed up the highway (thankfully, the tornado warning had passed) and made it all the way into Texas – ready for rodeo!

Some areas were hit badly by all the rain – which came after a week of hot weather that had baked the ground

This was actually an interstate junction (yes, we were driving in this!) and when we first saw this flooded car on the right there were people sitting on top of the roof to try and escape the water. You can just about see them running to another car that’s offered them a liftWe found there wasn’t a lot to do in Mount Pleasant – it’s not really geared for tourists – so we headed out to a pretty lake just outside the town during the day and headed back into the town for the main event in the afternoon.

[PIC Lake Bob Sandlin State Park was a pretty place to watch the hours roll by before rodeo time! ] [PIC A heron came to keep us company too]

While waiting for the event to start, I helped some of the townsfolk prepare by shifting boxes and putting up signs while they explained the rules of all the different rodeo events to me. The people I met were lovely – and they seemed genuinely delighted that we had come to visit and told us repeatedly that we’d picked the best rodeo to see. It was certainly impressive; the cowboys’ roping skills were lightning-fast and I have no idea how some of them managed to cling on to the bucking broncos!

[PIC Yeehaw! Ride ’em cowboy! ] There were loads of different events - the bull ride, the bucking bronco and timed events for catching and tying up a cow

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