Randal Olson is a data scientist based in Portland. He was asked by a writer for Discovery News, Tracy Staedter, to use his algorithm skills to create the perfect road trip across the United States.
Her only parameters were that the trip must stop in each of the 48 contiguous states, and every stop must be a national landmark, historic site, national park or national monument. Oh, and the car has to stay in the US.
Sounds like fun, right? I love the idea!
The Ideal Road Trip
There is something so perfect about taking a road trip. The planning, the packing, the excitement. I love prepping the food for the ride. Why does everything taste even more delicious when you’re traveling?
Take these peanut butter stuffed cookies, for example. They’re so good! When you freeze them and pop them in a cooler for a getaway though, they become something seriously yummy. Try it for yourself. You’ll see what I mean.
Anyway, the brilliant Randal came up with 50 landmarks, one in every state excluding Alaska/Hawaii and including D.C., and two in California.
He wanted the best route for traveling between all the landmarks in order, without backtracking. That’s no small task.
In fact, Randal said, “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…”
No thanks, sir. I’ll take your word for it!
A Journey of 13, 669 Miles
That’s the length of this road trip. While it will take you around 2 to 3 months to visit all of them, the entire trip can be done with only a total of 9 1/2 days of driving. That’s plenty of time to visit each place without feeling too rushed.
The Landmarks On the Perfect Road Trip
If you appreciate nature and getting out to see some of the things that make America unique and beautiful, you’ll love the experience. Here’s what you’ll see.
Grand Canyon, AZ
Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID
Yellowstone National Park, WY
Pikes Peak, CO
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
The Alamo, TX
The Platt Historic District, OK
Toltec Mounds, AR
Elvis Presley’s Graceland, TN
Vicksburg National Military Park, MS
French Quarter, New Orleans, LA
USS Alabama, AL
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL
Okefenokee Swamp Park, GA
Fort Sumter National Monument, SC
Lost World Caverns, WV
Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, NC
Mount Vernon, VA
White House, Washington, DC
Colonial Annapolis Historic District, MD
New Castle Historic District, Delaware
Cape May Historic District, NJ
Liberty Bell, PA
Statue of Liberty, NY
The Mark Twain House & Museum, CT
The Breakers, RI
USS Constitution, MA
Acadia National Park, ME
Mount Washington Hotel, NH
Shelburne Farms, VT
Fox Theater, Detroit, MI
Spring Grove Cemetery, OH
Mammoth Cave National Park, KY
West Baden Springs Hotel, IN
Abraham Lincoln’s Home, IL
Gateway Arch, MO
C. W. Parker Carousel Museum, KS
Terrace Hill Governor’s Mansion, IA
Fort Snelling, MN
Ashfall Fossil Bed, NE
Mount Rushmore, SD
Fort Union Trading Post, ND
Glacier National Park, MT
Hanford Site, WA
Columbia River Highway, OR
San Francisco Cable Cars, CA
San Andreas Fault, CA
Hoover Dam, NV
Or…Visit US Cities Instead of Landmarks
Alternatively, Randal gets that not everyone wants to see the Parker Carousel Museum in Leavenworth, KS. That’s why he laid out the same kind of road trip, but with a focus on America’s cities.
Here are the places you’ll visit if you utilize his algorithm. At 12,290 miles, it’s a little shorter than the landmark focused trek but you can still plan on roughly the same amount of time away from home.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Las Vegas, Nevada
San Francisco, California
Park City, Utah
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Des Moines, Iowa
Manchester, New Hampshire
Providence, Rhode Island
New Haven, Connecticut
New York City, New York
Ocean City, New Jersey
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Charlotte, North Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina
New Orleans, Louisiana
Little Rock, Arkansas
Are You Game?
Are you packing? If you want to take a road trip but can’t necessarily do the entire thing, visit Randal’s site for more information. While you’re dreaming of a way you can take 2 1/2 months off work to see the United States of America, head into the kitchen and whip up some Pineapple Lemonade to sip. While it probably won’t convince your boss to give you the vacation time, it’ll sure make your day just a little bit sweeter.
As for me, I’m already packing… in my mind.