An Adventurous Life for the Budgeting Family

Why You Should Go to The Angola Prison Rodeo

Why You Should Go to The Angola Prison Rodeo

The Angola Prison Rodeo is a wondrous thing. If you live outside of Louisiana, you probably haven’t heard of it. Even my friends in New Orleans who have heard of it had never been. Bobby and I had to see what it was about. Now, we are heading into our fourth trip to Angola in five years. I can’t wait to share this experience with our son.

First of all, who wouldn’t love the perfect occasion to wear a cowboy hat and cowboy boots?

Angola Rodeo

You have to buy tickets to the rodeo in advance, and they sell out well before the weekend arrives. You can purchase your tickets at their website. The rodeo happens for one weekend in April, and then every weekend in October.

Angola Rodeo poster

When you arrive at the prison, you will first notice how beautiful the grounds are. The penitentiary’s expansive grounds allows the institution to produce food for its inmates on site. So you’ll see crops and cows in the fields as you drive to the rodeo entrance gates. Be sure to tune into the local radio station. You’ll hear fascinating facts about Angola, narrated by a man with an entertaining accent starting every sentence with, “Did you know…” We repeated these facts for a long time after our first visit, trying to imitate the voice. You can also read about the history before you go by heading to this site.

Once inside, there is a lot to do besides heading to your seat in the rodeo arena. There are a plethora of fattening foods to choose from – think fried everything. There are photo ops such as a bull that you can stand next to. There are souvenirs to buy to rep the prison. There are performances by inmate bands. Then, the most magical of all, there is the hobby craft. Throughout the year, inmates can work on different crafts and hobbies such as painting, woodworking, jewelry making, and more. Then, they sell their wares during the rodeo. When you purchase an item, the inmate gets credit towards their commissary account. The items for sale range from totally weird – there were lots of Dora the Explorer and Spongebob earrings – to the awe inspiring – one man had made the most ornate and beautifully crafted grandfather clock I had ever laid eyes on. The most popular item for sale seems to always be the wooden gliders and rocking chairs. One day when we have some extra spending money, I hope to buy the dual rocking chair, which has two rocking chairs connected with a table and cupholders in the middle. It would be great for porch sitting.

Angola Prison

As you browse the splendors of the hobby craft market, you’ll see that families are brought together with incarcerated loved ones. There are also some wares sellers that are positioned behind a barbed wire fence. This is pretty intimidating when you want to find out the price of an item and give your purchase ticket to the artist. I hate to admit it, but I couldn’t help but wonder what these guys had done to make them not allowed to be with the general population.

Come early to browse and shop; if you linger too long, you might miss the main event. The rodeo is So. Much. Fun. It is a professional grade rodeo, with acts brought in from around the country. There are horse trick shows and even little monkeys that ride sheep dogs like cowboys. Ummmm amazing. As their trainer announces at the start of their act, “These monkeys are not forced to ride. They do this because they love to ride!” And of course, the inmates get involved too. There are terrifying, yet entertaining, games that the prisoners “play” with the bulls. To whet your appetite, here is the description of one such game: “It’s the ultimate poker game, and even winning has a price.  Four inmate cowboys sit at a table in the middle of the arena playing a friendly game of poker.  Suddenly, a wild bull is released with the sole purpose of unseating the poker players.  The last man remaining seated is the winner.” My favorite part of the rodeo is seeing the joy on little kids’ faces who have dressed up in full cowboy gear to watch the show.

Angola Prison Rodeo

The first year that we trekked to Angola for the rodeo, we decided to wait out the heavy traffic leaving at the end of the day. That is the worst part, especially if you have a long drive ahead of you. Everybody seems to leave all at once, and everyone has to pass through the gated exit one at a time. So it’s a slow go. We laid in the lovely grass by a stream until we got kicked out by a guard. That’s where we took these cute photos – sorry if they are too lovey dovey – it was the beginning of our romance, after all.

Love at Angola Prison Rodeo Love at Angola Prison Rodeo Love at Angola Prison Rodeo Dressing for Angola Prison Rodeo

Before you get to the main highway, you drive a long, windy road. Take a turn off this road, and you will be led to an amazing forest trail with waterfalls called Tunica Falls. This was a fun discovery we made. If you’ve got the time before heading home, I definitely recommend taking a nature walk. Be smarter than I was though, and pack a less slick pair of shoes than your fancy cowboy boots. I had some close calls on the slippery rocks in those green boots of mine.

Tunica Waterfalls Tunica Waterfalls Tunica Waterfalls Tunica Waterfalls

Let me know if you plan on going to the Angola Rodeo. And if you’ve been, please let us know what you love about it.



What to Expect When Visiting the Taj Mahal in India

What to Expect When Visiting the Taj Mahal in India

After graduating from college, I went to India for a month with a non-profit group called the Louisiana-Himalaya Association (LHA).

It took a couple of days for the members of our volunteer group to acclimate to the culture shock of landing in New Delhi, India. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before – the sights, sounds, and smells were just all so different. I quickly fell in love with the country and the people I had the pleasure of interacting with. New Delhi was exciting and heartbreaking at the same time.

It’s a Long Drive, But Enjoy The Roadside Stops Along the Way

While in New Delhi, we took a day to sightsee. We rented a van to take us to Agra and the Taj Mahal. It was about a three hour drive each way. There were interesting places to stop along the way, too. We went to a big restaurant where men outside had monkeys to take photos with. The monkeys tried to cop a feel on me! There were also people with an elephant that we could pay to ride on. After taking photos of the beautiful animal, I felt really sad that this elephant might not have much freedom. But that’s content for a different kind of post.

The other stop we took on the way home was at McDonalds. I know, I know, who goes to a foreign country and eats at a McDonalds within the first week?!? It was hilarious to see the Buddhist monk we traveled with, Tsering, sitting next to a Ronald McDonald figurine. And I was pleasantly surprised by all of the vegetarian options that Mickey D’s had in this country, such as the McVeggie Surprise!

And Then You May Have to Take a Rickshaw

Once we reached Agra, we then hired rickshaws to get us to the Taj Mahal. This was fun since it was a first time on these passenger bikes for all of us on the trip. We got to see the people who lived in this area up close, waving to the children and talking with the drivers about their home.

Be Prepared for the Weather

We happened to go see this splendor on an extremely hot day. There isn’t really anywhere to go inside to get away from the heat. The English gardens that surround the kingdom consist of low shrubbery, which doesn’t help give any shade. Two girls on our trip had a really hard time in the heat and sun and had to lie down and have people help them with water and cooling off. You probably don’t want to be that person, so make sure you wear sunscreen, a hat, and have water and snacks to keep energized.

We did find some shady, less crowded areas to the sides of the main building in the complex. These open hall buildings are very beautiful and ornate, but not white marble like the main part of the mausoleum. This was a nice spot to rest in the shade. Others had the same idea, but we still managed to find our own personal spaces.

You Have to Take Your Shoes Off

I don’t think most people would have a problem with this, but do be aware that you can’t wear your shoes into the mausoleum. This makes sense, to keep the beauty intact and not dirty up this Wonder of the World! Lots of shoes will be piled up beside the steps leading into the Taj Mahal’s main white building (I’m sure there is an official name for it, but I don’t know it). Kick yours in there, or bring pair that can fit into your bag if you’re skeptical about parting with them.

You Might Be a Tourist Attraction Too

After taking my first glances at the stunning site and snapping some photos, I realized that a handful of people were facing the opposite direction. I did a 360 to check out what they were photographing, but couldn’t see anything very interesting. When I turned back, I realized that their photo subject was me! I was really embarrassed and thought I must look stupid or something.

Tourists travel to the Taj Mahal from all over India, and some may never have seen someone that looks like you or dresses like you in person before. So…Smile!

A Road Trip from Georgia to Tennessee – Hot Springs, Gliding, and Graceland

A Road Trip from Georgia to Tennessee – Hot Springs, Gliding, and Graceland

The most memorable road trip I’ve ever taken to date has to be when Bobby and I drove from New Orleans to my grandparents’ house in South Georgia then up to Tennessee and back again. We didn’t have any time constraints, so we had the awesome opportunity to stop whenever and wherever our hearts desired.

As we drove East, we thought it would be fun to stretch our legs out in a park of some sort. The signs for Ponce de Leon Springs sounded good enough, so we pulled off the road there to walk the dog. What we found there was much better than any rest stop park. It was a hot springs filled with families having picnics and kids swimming and running around. There were some signs saying no dogs allowed, but we found a private area outside of the main swimming hole and asked the surrounding folks if they would be bothered by our dog. They all said dogs had been there before and it made everything more fun. And don’t worry, he had already done “his business” before we got near the water. Anyway, we had a great time there and before we knew it we were hours later than planned in arriving to our first destination. 

First, we went to my grandparents’ house in Colquitt, Georgia. It was early on in our relationship, so Bobby actually met my grandparents before he met my parents. And then he got to meet my very cool Uncle Lane. Lane is a pilot and loves all things aviation. His favorite hobby at the time was flying glider airplanes, which are planes without engines. On this trip, he let Bobby and I give gliding a go. It was one of the coolest experiences.

Lane went up in the glider with Bobby and then me. A motor airplane tows the glider to get it launched into the air. Then, on Lane’s signal, we pressed a big button that released the tow line; you’re on your own in the sky! It was so cool to look for “thermals”, where the warm air is pushing up and will get your plane higher in the sky for a longer flight. You can usually spot them by watching where the birds are catching air. It was a very zen feeling to be up so high with no airplane noises. I felt like a bird and loved the peacefulness and the views of farmland and woods down below. 

Bobby had a longer flight, so I guess he was the winner of the day. Yes, we are very competitive. I say it was beginners luck though. Some day we will try it again and see who the real victor is.

After landing safely, we celebrated with messing around taking photos of the airplanes and Lane’s hanger. Oskar got in on the fun, too. My grandparents came along, too. My Papa loves airplanes just like his son.

Our next stop was North – Atlanta! Bobby is from outside of Atlanta, so he wanted me to meet his family and best friends. I was nervous, and his Dad slapped my butt when I met him. That actually made me less nervous because it was so inappropriate but hilarious. 

We spent one night in Atlanta at a nice hotel, then a night at Bobby’s parents’ house. We also got to hang out with Bobby’s friend Jonathan and let Oskar run around with his dogs.

Although I’ve been to the suburbs of Atlanta countless times, I haven’t spent much time exploring the city itself. Leave some comments if you have any tips or cool spots to visit!

At last, it was time to journey to our grand finale destination – Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. I am a lifelong Elvis fan like my mother before me, so Bobby planned this as a special treat for me. What a guy! 

We had a blast at Graceland. Because of MTV cribs and shows like that, I was imagining a ridiculous mansion. But Elvis’ house was more modest than that. However, the decor and the themed rooms did not disappoint.

Since our trip involved the wonders of aviation, we were thrilled to get to continue the theme and check out Elvis’ private planes. His motto and logo for Taking Care of Business on the side of his planes really moved me. 

We couldn’t leave Memphis without going out on Beale Street. It was pretty cool. It reminded me of a smaller, infinitely cleaner Bourbon Street. 

All good things must come to an end, and we had to drive back home to Louisiana after all this road trip fun. I highly suggest taking a trip like this for any couple. We got to know each other well on the long ride and had adventures that we still laugh and talk about all the time. 

Oh, we also ran in fields in the country when our legs got tired of sitting in the car.

What was your best road trip? Do you have any route or roadside attraction suggestions for us?