Making the ultimate road trip around the United States may be an unrealistic dream for many of us, but one data guru has managed to at least give us a map to our ambition.
As the Washington Post reports, blogger and data analyst Randal Olson, famous for creating an algorithm that identified the ideal search pattern for “Where’s Waldo”, has turned his skills towards creating the perfect road trip.
As Olson discusses on his blog the challenge first came from Tracy Staedter of the Discovery Channel. He writes:
“Why not use the same algorithm from my Where’s Waldo article to compute the optimal road trip across every state in the U.S.? Visiting every U.S. state has long been on my bucket list, so I jumped on the opportunity…”
Of course, planning a road trip that hits every U.S. state in the most efficient way possible requires a few guidelines. For Olson’s trip they were:
1. At least one stop in every one of the 48 contiguous states. Sorry, Alaska and Hawaii.
2. The only stops would be at National Historic Sites, National Parks, National Monuments, or National Natural Landmarks.
3. It has to be possible to complete the trip by car without ever leaving the U.S.A.
Staedter chose the landmark stops and wrote about them for Discovery News while Olson got busy plotting out the most efficient route.
As Olson notes on his blog,
“If you started computing this problem on your home computer right now, you’d find the optimal route in about 9.64 x 1052 years.”
The result of Olson and Staedter’s collaboration? An epic trip that “hits every major area in the U.S.” including, Mt. Vernon, the Grand Canyon, the White House, Mount Rushmore, Graceland, and a lot more.
According to the Post, the trip would take about 9.33 days (traffic permitting) to cover 13,699 miles if you didn’t bother to stop or sleep. However, in reality, the trip would take 2-3 months.
Olson notes that one of the highlights of the route is that travelers can start anywhere as long as they follow it from there. The complete list of landmarks in order are:
1. Grand Canyon, AZ
2. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
3. Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID
4. Yellowstone National Park, WY
5. Pikes Peak, CO
6. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
7. The Alamo, TX
8. The Platt Historic District, OK
9. Toltec Mounds, AR
10. Elvis Presley’s Graceland, TN
11. Vicksburg National Military Park, MS
12. French Quarter, New Orleans, LA
13. USS Alabama, AL
14. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL
15. Okefenokee Swamp Park, GA
16. Fort Sumter National Monument, SC
17. Lost World Caverns, WV
18. Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, NC
19. Mount Vernon, VA
20. White House, Washington, DC
21. Colonial Annapolis Historic District, MD
22. New Castle Historic District, Delaware
23. Cape May Historic District, NJ
24. Liberty Bell, PA
25. Statue of Liberty, NY
26. The Mark Twain House & Museum, CT
27. The Breakers, RI
28. USS Constitution, MA
29. Acadia National Park, ME
30. Mount Washington Hotel, NH
31. Shelburne Farms, VT
32. Fox Theater, Detroit, MI
33. Spring Grove Cemetery, OH
34. Mammoth Cave National Park, KY
35. West Baden Springs Hotel, IN
36. Abraham Lincoln’s Home, IL
37. Gateway Arch, MO
38. C. W. Parker Carousel Museum, KS
39. Terrace Hill Governor’s Mansion, IA
40. Taliesin, WI
41. Fort Snelling, MN
42. Ashfall Fossil Bed, NE
43. Mount Rushmore, SD
44. Fort Union Trading Post, ND
45. Glacier National Park, MT
46. Hanford Site, WA
47. Columbia River Highway, OR
48. San Francisco Cable Cars, CA
49. San Andreas Fault, CA
50. Hoover Dam, NV
Although the trip can be done in fewer than 10 days, it would defeat the purpose. If you’re going to enjoy seeing the country from sea to shining sea, you might as well take your time. After all, you already have your map.