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THIS is the Ultimate United States Road Trip, According to Science!

Imagine a continuous road trip that takes you through every single state in the U.S. Through the use of a complex algorithm (the same one he used to find Waldo with terrifying accuracy), Randal plotted out a route that passes through all 48 contiguous U.S. states in just over 9 days of driving time. The entire trip is taken by car and never once leaves the U.S. The only stops are at national landmarks. It looks like this.
Image: Google Maps, Randal Olson Image: Google Maps, Randal Olson
That's it. The absolute shortest possible round trip through the country. You can start at any point and work your way through the trip. Stops and rest time included, Randal estimates the trip would take about 2-3 months. Randal says that the route includes "an epic itinerary with a mix of inner city exploration, must-see historical sites and beautiful natural landscapes." These are the landmarks you'd pass on the trip, in order:
  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
Epic indeed.

How The Route Works

As impressive as the road trip is, what's even more impressive is the strategy Randal used to find it. If he had tried to do it manually, it would've taken him a really long time. I mean, a reallylong time. As in, 9.64 x 10^52 years. By that point, the United States would no longer exist. In fact, the entire planet may no longer exist by that time. So clearly, manually plotting out the trip wasn't an option. Instead, Randal used his computing brilliance to design an algorithm that ran through all possible routes to find the most efficient one much faster than any human would be able to. The process, sped up, looked sort of like this.
us-state-capitols-optimization-map Image: Randal Olson, Google Maps

Things You Could Do On The Road Trip

While the stops at national monuments and parks would surely keep you entertained, you've still got those 9 days of driving time. Here are some fun American-flavored things you could do in that time.
  1. You could listen to Bruce Springsteen's 'Born To Run' album 332 times.
  2. You could have your passengers watch 'Independence Day' 108 times.
  3. You could challenge national hot dog champion Takeru Kobayashi to eat 14,2560 hot dogs at 110 per 10 minutes.
  4. You could ignore #3, since hot dogs are really bad.
  5. You could sing the Star Spangled Banner roughly 6480 times.

What's the most epic road trip you've ever taken? Would you want to try this one? Drop a comment below to let us know your thoughts!

Have a look at this video to learn more about the trip! Sources: BBC Randal Olson