Lonely Planet Writer

Just back from: Canada and the United States of America

Joe D Joe is king of the road in Joshua Tree © Joe Davis

Joe Davis, Online Marketing Coordinator at Lonely Planet, is just back from an epic road trip through Canada and the United States of America.

Tell us more… I spent three months driving 8000 miles from Calgary to New York with two friends. Our route took us to Vancouver through the Rockies in a camper van, down the entire West Coast of America in a convertible Mustang, and across to Boston in a more sensible car (a Nissan Altima). We visited Austin, New Orleans and Nashville, to name just a few places, and experienced extremes from the Athabasca Glacier to the desert in Joshua Tree National Park – which made packing a small bag a big challenge.

Defining moment? Driving the Mustang to sunny San Diego was a milestone –we’d completed the West Coast. It was also surreal to suddenly see the iconic lights of Las Vegas appear from nowhere after hours of driving a completely straight road through the desert. But most of all, I remember the sense of accomplishment when we reached Whistler. We were still learning how to drive our camper van and ended up navigating a crumbling mountain range in a storm with death-defying drops – managing to avoid hurtling rocks and even a landslide.

Good grub? Yeah, it’s America! Highlights include Waffle Window in Portland and trying alligator meat in New Orleans. The steak in Nashville is both the biggest and best I have ever tried – and for half the price you’d pay in the UK.

wafflewindowedit A mouthwatering meal at Waffle Window should not be missed © Joe Davis

You’d be a muppet to miss… Ocean Beach in San Diego. What can I say? It’s a barefoot, hippy, surf-haven that has everything; Dog Beach (one of the first leash-free beaches in the US), famous burger restaurants, bustling bars and a vibrant market are all situated on one road. I barely strayed off Newport Avenue and had so much fun I extended my stay.

Fav activity? Okay so ‘bear watch’ isn’t an official activity but it became a bit of an obsession while in Canada. Every campsite warned us of imminent bear activity which subsequently never happened. We crawled along creeks and rivers for miles with our eyes peeled. At the last opportunity, when we had given up hope, we spotted a Cinnamon bear and its cub in the most unexpected of places – a busy dirt track in Whistler.

Bizarre encounter? Everything I met on Halloween in Austin. A bar that resembled a circus was brimming with an array of impressive creatures and monsters. I remember a guy with eight limbs, all of which became more convincing as the night progressed. In case you were wondering, I dressed up as the guy from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Texans get a 10/10 for costume effort.

mardigrasworldEDIT The magical floats and figures at Mardi Gras World © Joe Davis

If you do one thing go to… Mardi Gras World in New Orleans. Artists work year round preparing floats for the annual Mardi Gras Parade in New Orleans and beyond. I got to dress up as a parade member, eat ‘King Cake’ (a circular, or donut-shaped, cake with a figurine of a baby placed inside – whoever gets the slice with the figurine in it is considered the ‘lucky one’) and get lost amongst the towering creations.

Quintessential experience? We were lucky enough to stay in a gated community with a private beach near Monterey in California. I went swimming at sunset and witnessed two dolphins propel out of the water just a few meters away from me. Then as an added bonus a humpback whale cruised along the horizon. I didn’t want to leave this wildlife haven.