Computing the optimal road trip across the U.S.

Last week, Tracy Staedter from Discovery News proposed an interesting idea to me: 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 and opened up my machine learning tool box for another quick weekend project.

Note: If you’re not interested in the technical details of the project, skip down to the Road trip stopping at major U.S. landmarks section.

One of the hardest parts of planning a road trip is deciding where to stop along the way. Given how large and diverse the U.S. is, it’s especially difficult to make a road trip that will appeal to everyone. To stand a chance at making an interesting road trip, Tracy and I laid out a few rules from the beginning:

1. The trip must make at least one stop in all 48 states in the contiguous U.S.
2. The trip would only make stops at National Natural Landmarks, National Historic Sites, National Parks, or National Monuments.
3. The trip must be taken by car and never leave the U.S.

With those objectives in mind, Tracy compiled a list of 50 major U.S. landmarks — one in each state excluding Alaska/Hawaii and including D.C., and two in California. Tracy wrote about that process on Discovery News here.

The result was an epic itinerary with a mix of inner city exploration, must-see historical sites, and beautiful natural landscapes. All that was left was to figure out the path that would minimize our time spent driving and maximize our time spent enjoying the landmarks.

Image credit: Dean Franklin

Computing the optimal road trip across the U.S.

With the list of landmarks in hand, the next step was to find the “true” distance between all of the landmarks by car. Since we can’t just drive a straight line between every landmark — driving by car has this pesky limitation of having to stay on roads — we needed to find the shortest route by road between every landmark.

If you’ve ever used Google Maps to get the directions between two addresses, that’s basically what we had to do here. Except this time, we needed to look up 2,450 directions to get the “true” distance between all 50 landmarks — a monumental task if we had to do it by hand. Thankfully, the Google Maps API makes this information freely available, so all it took was a short Python script to calculate the distance and time driven for all 2,450 routes between the 50 landmarks.

Now with the 2,450 landmark-landmark distances, our next step was to approach the task as a traveling salesman problem: We needed to order the list of landmarks such that the total distance traveled between them is as small as possible if we visited them in order. This means finding the route that backtracks as little as possible, which is especially difficult when visiting Florida and the Northeast.

If you read my Where’s Waldo article, you’re already aware of how difficult it can be to solve route optimization problems like this one. With 50 landmarks to put in order, we would have to exhaustively evaluate 3 x 1064 possible routes to find the shortest one.

To provide some context: 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 — long after the Sun has entered its red giant phase and devoured the Earth. This complication is why Google Map’s route optimization service only optimizes routes of up 10 waypoints, and the best free route optimization service only optimizes 20 waypoints unless you pay them a lot of money to dedicate some bigger computers to it.

The traveling salesman problem is so notoriously difficult to solve that even xkcd poked fun at it:

Clearly, we need a smarter solution if we want to take this epic road trip in our lifetime. Thankfully, the traveling salesman problem has been well-studied over the years and there are many ways for us to solve it in a reasonable amount of time.

If we’re willing to accept that we don’t need the absolute best route between all of the landmarks, then we can turn to smarter techniques such as genetic algorithms to find a solution that’s good enough for our purposes. Instead of exhaustively looking at every possible solution, genetic algorithms start with a handful of random solutions and continually tinkers with these solutions — always trying something slightly different from the current solutions and keeping the best ones — until they can’t find a better solution any more.

I’ve included a visualization of a genetic algorithm solving a similar routing problem below.

Road trip stopping at major U.S. landmarks

After less than a minute, the genetic algorithm reached a near-perfect solution that makes a complete trip around the U.S. in only 13,699 miles (22,046 km) of driving. I’ve mapped that route below.

Note: There’s an extra stop in Cleveland to force the route between Vermont and Michigan to stay in the U.S. rather than go through Canada. If you’re able to drive through Canada without issue, then take the direct route through Canada instead.

Assuming no traffic, this road trip will take about 224 hours (9.33 days) of driving in total, so it’s truly an epic undertaking that will take at least 2-3 months to complete. The best part is that this road trip is designed so that you can start anywhere on the route as long as you follow it from then on. You’ll hit every major area in the U.S. on this trip, and as an added bonus, you won’t spend too long driving through the endless corn fields of Nebraska.

Here’s the Google Maps of the route: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

(Note that Google maps itself only allows 10 waypoints to be routed at a time, hence why there’s multiple Maps links.)

Here’s the full list of landmarks 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
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

Bonus: Road trip stopping at popular U.S. cities

If you’re more of a city slicker, the road trip above may not look very appealing to you because it involves spending a lot of time outdoors. But worry not, for I created a second road trip just for you! The road trip below stops at the TripAdvisor-rated Best City to Visit in every contiguous U.S. state.

Note: Again, there’s an extra stop in Cleveland to force the route between New Hampshire and Michigan to stay in the U.S. rather than go through Canada. If you’re able to drive through Canada without issue, then take the direct route through Canada instead. But really, Cleveland is a nice city to stop in (ranked #53 on TripAdvisor).

This road trip will more-or-less follow the same path as the major U.S. landmarks trip, covering a slightly shorter 12,290 mile (19,780 km) route around the U.S. Some larger states — like California and Texas — may have multiple cities you’d like to visit, so it’s probably worthwhile to stop at other larger cities along the route.

You may note that cities from North Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia are missing. Out of the top 400 recommended cities to visit on TripAdvisor, none were from North Dakota, Vermont, nor West Virginia. This is especially interesting because TripAdvisor reviewers recommend cities like Flint, MI — the 7th most crime-ridden city in the U.S. — over any city in North Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia. I’ll leave the interpretation of that fact to the reader.

Here’s the Google Maps of the route: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

Here’s the full list of cities in order:

1. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
2. Wichita, Kansas
4. Albuquerque, New Mexico
5. Phoenix, Arizona
7. San Francisco, California
8. Portland, Oregon
9. Seattle, Washington
10. Boise, Idaho
11. Park City, Utah
12. Jackson, Wyoming
13. Billings, Montana
14. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
16. Des Moines, Iowa
17. Minneapolis, Minnesota
18. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
19. Chicago, Illinois
20. Indianapolis, Indiana
21. Louisville, Kentucky
22. Columbus, Ohio
23. Detroit, Michigan
24. Cleveland, Ohio
25. Manchester, New Hampshire
26. Portland, Maine
27. Boston, Massachusetts
28. Providence, Rhode Island
29. New Haven, Connecticut
30. New York City, New York
31. Ocean City, New Jersey
33. Wilmington, Delaware
34. Baltimore, Maryland
35. Washington, D.C.
36. Virginia Beach, Virginia
37. Charlotte, North Carolina
38. Charleston, South Carolina
39. Orlando, Florida
40. Atlanta, Georgia
41. Nashville, Tennessee
42. Birmingham, Alabama
43. Jackson, Mississippi
44. New Orleans, Louisiana
45. Houston, Texas
46. Little Rock, Arkansas
47. Branson, Missouri

If you’d like to customize your own road trip, I’ve released the Python code I used in this project with an open source license and instructions for how to optimize your custom road trip. You can find the code here.

What about other parts of the world?

I’ve made another version for Europe here and for South America here. I also made a road trip for Michigan, and optimized walking tours for NYC and Philadelphia. Check ’em out!

Conclusions

The saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Really, that’s not true. Every major journey begins with a plan: where you’re going, where you’re stopping along the way, and how you’re getting there. I hope this article convinced you that machine learning can play a crucial role in that planning phase and save you a ton of time along the way.

Of course, it may not be practical for you to take a road trip of epic proportions like the ones described here. But really, this algorithm works just as well when you’re planning a smaller trip within your state as when you’re planning a larger trip spanning the entire world. All the algorithm needs are the distances travelled between every stop so it can try to compute the optimal route. How you get between those stops is up to you.

Dr. Randy Olson is the Lead Data Scientist at Life Epigenetics, Inc., where he is bringing advanced data science and machine learning technology to the life insurance industry.

1. Diorex says:

I have done this to create several optimized routes to visit all of the county seats in a region or county. My son and I visited all the counties in New England last year, and have also done this for Arkansas, as well as Alabama and Mississippi. I have performed the calculations for perhaps a dozen other states.

Would love to see your scripts since that is the weakest part of my process. I am getting the data from google API one location at a time and frequently run out of daily API calls.

Also working on a “lower 48” route for all the courthouses.

Finally – I have yet to find an easy way to create the Google maps like you did. It breaks past about 20-25 locations. Once I have the list I dont want Google to try and optimize it, just plot it but that does not work well…

Shared this with a group on Facebook that tries to visit every county in the country – called the Extra Miler Club.

• Randy Olson says:

I just released the code today. You can find it here: http://nbviewer.ipython.org/github/rhiever/Data-Analysis-and-Machine-Learning-Projects/blob/master/optimal-road-trip/Computing%20the%20optimal%20road%20trip%20across%20the%20U.S..ipynb

I’m still using up a ton of API calls as well. There isn’t really a way around it except to wait another 24h. Oh well. :-/

I briefly describe how to make these maps in the code linked above. You basically need to create your own custom map using the JavaScript Google Maps API. It requires a bit of hacking around the limitations of the Google Maps API, since they limit you to routing 10 waypoints at a time.

You can find an example here: https://github.com/rhiever/optimal-roadtrip-usa/blob/gh-pages/major-landmarks.html

• honda fit says:

Interesting! Is there no detour around it? Or do you have to double all the way back?

• The trip must be taken by car and never leave the U.S.

• photos says:

With the list of landmarks in hand, the next step was to find the “true” distance between all of the landmarks by car. Since we can’t just drive a straight line between every landmark — driving by car has this pesky limitation of having to stay on roads — we needed to find the shortest route by road between every landmark.

• The result was an epic itinerary with a mix of inner city exploration, must-see historical sites, and beautiful natural landscapes. All that was left was to figure out the path that would minimize our time spent driving and maximize our time spent enjoying the landmarks.

• fire clipart says:

If you’ve ever used Google Maps to get the directions between two addresses, that’s basically what we had to do here. Except this time, we needed to look up 2,450 directions to get the “true” distance between all 50 landmarks — a monumental task if we had to do it by hand. Thankfully, the Google Maps API makes this information freely available, so all it took was a short Python script to calculate the distance and time driven for all 2,450 routes between the 50 landmarks.

2. Jill Toler says:

This is really cool. My husband and I are planning a three month road trip for next year. This is a really great way for us to get in all of our must see items on the list without me sitting with the big map, atlas and google maps open for hours. Thank you!

3. Maggie Joye says:

The road shown on the map between Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon (89) is not actually a road right now. It suffered a “geological event” in 2013 and 89T was built as a bypass. That probably should be updated on the map. Otherwise you’ll drive quite a distance only to turn around and double back.

• Randy Olson says:

Interesting! Is there no detour around it? Or do you have to double all the way back?

• Tucsonan says:

the road re-opens March 27th. just announced

4. Mark says:

I would love to know how to calculate cost on a trip of this size

• Randy Olson says:

So many variables! It’s tough to say. I can only advise buying a cheap RV to avoid the costs of staying in a hotel.

5. Melissa says:

I’m really bad at coding/digital things. Have you ever considered releasing the map as a google map with directions or a map quest, so technologically-unsavvy people can take the trip? Thank you! Really cool idea by the way!

• Randy Olson says:

Thanks Melissa! 🙂 We didn’t release a Google map with directions for a couple reasons. Google maps itself only allows maps with up to 10 waypoints at a time, so we would have had to split the trip up into 5-6 different maps. On top of that, we weren’t really sure where people would start on the route, so the splits we make might not work well for people.

Anyway, the addresses listed in the numbered lists should work on Google Maps, so you can plug them into Google Maps in order from your starting point.

6. Dawn Carlson says:

Randy, with this map did you also get distances between each point and time to travel between distances. I’m very interested in that information without having to calculate it myself.

7. cg8s says:

This is awesome!!! And now my wife and I want Randy to plan the ultimate RV trip mapping the “1,000 Places To See in the United States & Canada Before You Die” book.

• Randy Olson says:

1,000 places? Oh my, and I thought 50 stops was ambitious! 🙂

8. Gabriel Marcus says:

The “Hanford Site” is the top landmark in WA state? Were you in WA when you wrote this, smoking our finest legal herb? Hanford was an atomic bomb processing site that now has a lot of leaking radioactive waste barrels. There’s so much to see and do in WA that doesn’t involve being irradiated!

• Randy Olson says:

Ha, you’ll have to ping Tracy about the choice of the Hanford site. She thoroughly researched all of the landmarks, though.

I actually made the 2nd “popular city” map because I’d rather visit Seattle.

• Sheep O'Doom says:

Clearly she didn’t research well enough… Most landmarks listed are NOT landmarks. One that are obvious are not listed. Maybe she should have consulted with a history Major?

Quit whining about Washington. It’s a corner state. When you round the bases, you try to clip the corners. Don’t get your feelings hurt.

• belgium2 says:

Hanford is A. not a landmark and B. is not that beautiful of an area. Head 40 miles east and you’re at Mt St Helens which is much much nicer. A recent blown up volcano is a landmark.

• Christine Knopp says:

She put San Andreas Fault as a landmark, which I LOL’d a lot at, being from California.

Yosemite much?

• furryfrog says:

Hahaha, first thing I questioned too. Being from ID and having driven through central WA many times, I can attest, it’s not even an attractive area. Since when do we count Superfund sites as destinations? Space Needle at least?

• Quincy Dukes says:

If you ever want to visit key sites in Silicon Valley that once housed companies important to the computer revolution of the past 75 years, you’ll be visiting several Superfund sites.

California’s Santa Clara County (which is home to the Silicon Valley cities of Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Jose and others) has the distinction of being the single county in the entire US having the largest number of distinct Superfund sites.

These sites were all accidentally/deliberately created by various technology companies over the past 75 years who used a variety of toxic chemicals to create their products. Those chemicals were often stored onsite in poorly-constructed and poorly-reinforced storage tanks that leaked their contents into the ground and into groundwater tables.

A surprisingly large number of these sites, still designated as Superfund sites, have yet to be cleaned up and remediated.

So parts of Silicon Valley might indeed count as tourist destinations that are also Superfund sites.

• Kirk says:

I agree. Hanford is neat and all, but certainly not the top of anything. If one wanted to stay way from traffic and still see something worthwhile, at least go see Mt Rainier or Mt St Helens. Mt Rainier one can get to if you are going north from Portland then cut in and keep going east to Yakima or if you are going west, go to Yakima, cut over to Mt Rainier and then down to the Portland area.

Seattle has its sites, but the traffic sucks and there is no where to park.

• Teresa says:

How about Mount Ranier National Park. It would be better than Hanford.

• spacecommander says:

• Ryan P. Flynn says:

Slightly. 😉

• Terence says:

Seattle= traffic hell. Parking= overzealous, dishonest enforcement.
Compared to Vancouver BC, it’s hell. Plus, low crime,no firearms – that’s important to me

• Dorian Atkins says:

The Washington Sate stop is in Seattle. There’s Pike Place Market, The Space Needle, and the Sci-Fi museum at the base of the Space Needle.

• Mandy Hubbard says:

You’re reading the “cities” trip. He’s referring to the first list which is for landmarks.

• ShieldsCW says:

Maybe he should actually post over there, then. Are you his mom or something?

• jn jac says:

Seattle also boasts “the Jungle” a large garbage strewn homeless encampment in the middle of the city right under I-5. And let’s not forget the EMP, quite possibly the ugliest building ever constructed. Oh and there’s the monorail to no where. Seattle sucks.

• Jayne LeAnne Thacker-Paulino says:

and your a racist blind ass hole seattle does not suck your just jealous cause you probably live in hell, haha idiot,…

• Randy Roberts says:

Seattle sucks! A Tacoma WA alumni

• Jayne LeAnne Thacker-Paulino says:

and dumb fuck there is no more jungle learn before you run your mouth ok tyvm

• jn jac says:

Gee Jaynie the comment was made 2 years ago when there was a jungle, but thanks anyway for showing everyone what a hateful intolerant progressive bitch you are.

• Justin Watson says:

I didn’t bother to read the list of landmarks, just wondered who they are to decide those specific ones are the ones I want to see. They started out great, I thought I was going to get to see a roadmap of every National Natural Landmark, National Historic Site, National Park, and National Monument, not just the ones the guy decided to include.

• Ryan P. Flynn says:

Agreed, as a Washingtonian, I couldn’t believe this was the chosen destination: Mt. Rainier NP, Mt. St. Helens, Grand Coulee, The Space Needle (or anywhere in the city of Seattle), Alki. Hell, I’d rather visit Tacoma than the Hanford site! In fact, I don’t think I ever have.

• Ruth H says:

Agreed. Although not from there I’ve loved the state, but mainly for the western side. My one experience with the eastern side was not good, I could not believe it was so different and so downright blah.

• Justin Ohms says:

There is much more to see at Hanford than leaking radioactive waste. You can’t get much more historically significant than the B Reactor at Hanford. It is a must see for anyone interested in the history of the 20th century. The B Reactor is one of the most historic buildings at Hanford and marks an important point in technology. First off it was the world’s first, full-scale nuclear reactor. If that alone isn’t enough, it played a very significant role in the history of the last century producing the plutonium used in the “Fat Man” bomb dropped over Nagasaki, Japan, in August of 1945 leading to the end of World War II. There are two tours available the, full site tour that takes a day, and the B Reactor tour that takes about 4 hours. (You stop at the B Reactor on the full tour but you spend more time there on the stand alone tour.) I have been on both and they are both very interesting.

• Terence says:

Are you from the tourist board?

• Justin Ohms says:

Nope

• Terence says:

A wannabe then?

• Justin Ohms says:

No

• Terence says:

• Justin Ohms says:

Thought an alternative view from someone who had been there would be relevant.

• Fluttershy says:

Still, Hanford is one of the least significant places in Washington. Sure, it is significant, but no where near the significance of Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, North Cascades National Park, San Juan Islands National Monument, Snoqualmie Falls, Palouse Falls State Park, Mount Baker (from Artist Point), and the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

• Kerri Jordyn says:

When you consider how many new species of critters have been found in the Hanford Reach National Monument, the historical significance of the area to local native tribes, the geologic history of the Rattlesnake hills, and much much more, it is just as significant as all those you listed.

• Fluttershy says:

It is not as significant, scenic-wise. Sure, it’s values for science are tremendous, but it is no comparison to Mt. Rainier, North Cascades, St. Helens, Adams, Enchantment Lakes, etc.

• Justin Barton says:

Are you serious? Mount Ranier? Mount St. Helens? Olympic National Park? Seattle? Port Angeles?

Cant even take you seriously if you are suggesting Hanford as the #1 go to place…

• Justin Ohms says:

If you are replying to me I was not suggesting it was the #1 place to go just that it is a historically significant site and a very interesting place to visit particularly if you have an interest in science or history.

• Clipart says:

What about other parts of the world?

• The result was an epic itinerary with a mix of inner city exploration, must-see historical sites, and beautiful natural landscapes. All that was left was to figure out the path that would minimize our time spent driving and maximize our time spent enjoying the landmarks.

• January 2018 says:

What about other parts of the world?

• Pamela Winter says:

Personally, I’d go for Maryhill in Washington!

• Opinionato says:

Absolutely. Mary Hill is a Marvel and you won;t have to come all the way to the Puget Sound. Grand Coulee Dam is another good choice.

• How do you forget the road ?

• SIRWILLIAM2013 says:

Yeah, San Fran cable cars are so much better to see that Yosemite or Redwoods. And why go out of the way in Texas to visit the Alamo, when they could have stopped much more easily at Cadillac Ranch and saved a lot of miles. Certainly as interesting as some of the other crap they visited!

• Glenn Ray says:

Because the Cadillac Ranch doesn’t meet the second criteria in the rules (not a National Landmark or Historic Site).

• Ichneumon Jones says:

The Alamo is a much better tourist stop than the goofy Cadillac Ranch. It’s steeped in history and heroism, it was the turning point of a war for independence, and while you’re there you can check out charming San Antonio and all it has to offer, including the River Walk which is like two blocks from the Alamo.

• SIRWILLIAM2013 says:

Been to both Alamo and River Walk. OK, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see them again.

• Blazh Femur says:

As long as you remember the Alamo.

• Lyveno says:

I was unimpressed

• Blazh Femur says:

The fight for freedom at the Alamo was the fight for the right and the freedom to create something as goofy as Cadillac Ranch. America the Beautiful. Anything’s possible.

• Monkfishy says:

I wouldn’t nitpick about the specific Washington landmark, so much as the fact that the route skips Western WA altogether. That’s a huge chunk of the state, which is also vastly different from the Eastern side. Not to piss off the “Easterners”, but if you skip Western WA, you might as well skip the entire state.

• dougsa says:

Mount St. Helens would be a far better choice.

• “The trip would only make stops at National Natural Landmarks, National Historic Sites, National Parks, or National Monuments.”

• Obdurate Verity says:

You dumb ass- if he wanted to see the majestic “insert shitty place here” he would have, but this was about economy of travel – not making you happy.

• Gabriel Marcus says:

I am not sure if you read below grade level or just skimmed the article, but I recommend reading it again. I suggest you get a reading buddy this time.

• Bill Lewis III says:

Your position may be valid, but you could have stated it without the ad hominem attack and the foul language.

• Blazh Femur says:

Port Townsend. Port Angeles. Olympia.

• Kerri Jordyn says:

Did you not read the article before you commented? Besides, oh ignorant one, there is far more to the Hanford Site than what you appear to think.

• jgmitzen says:

And if you go see the radioactive waste in Washington, what are you going to see in New Jersey?

9. Sridhar Ramakrishnan says:

Really cool stuff, Randy. There’s no more joy than applying one’s research to solve practical problems, and you have done a splendid job here. Keep it up!

– Sridhar, another Engineering Building MSU Spartan 🙂

10. DuckFacePlus says:

Really? Eureka Springs is not a stop in Arkansas? It is the best Victorian era town in the South, and has a colorful history. It is also one of the favorite cities of Ripley’s believe it or not… Little Rock is… meh…

11. Aaron Wixom says:

Awesome! One little thing (didn’t see anyone else mention it) – heading towards Bryce Canyon, UT from the Grand Canyon, US 89 is currently closed long term due to a rock slide a couple years ago between the junction of 89 and 89 A and the town of Page, AZ. There is a perfectly decent bypass, 89T, that goes through the Navajo reservation, and it would probably make the trip even more direct, but I would hate for someone to start out this awesome road trip and get stuck in the first day!

• Aaron Wixom says:

Never mind – just saw that someone else commented on it! Sorry!

• Michelle Tucker says:

That’d be us, getting stuck leaving CO. Hehe.

12. marijke says:

I love this because I’m a foreign student and would love to do this. Could you write a programme that will tell you the cost of car hire fuel, motels, sites and food cause that would be even more awesome?

13. flodrab says:

I have a Tesla … the only thing that could possibly make this route any better is if it could be done using Tesla’s network of Superchargers, and thus driven for free

• Randy Olson says:

If Tesla wants to give me one of their cars, I’ll optimize that route and see how it works out. 😉

• Bill Seliger says:

This would be a great promotion for Tesla (and a lucky data scientist would get a cool ride). Do you think it be possible to attack this problem with R and the lpSolve package?

14. J0513 says:

The Statue of Liberty is IN NEW JERSEY

• Terry A. says:

Nope. The island itself is part of New York, though the surrounding waters belong to New Jersey. It’s an unusual situation, to be sure, not but completely unique, and in any case represents the legal status of the island and waters as recognized by both states and the United States.

• Oliver Shaggnasty says:

Regardless of which state it is in, you cannot drive an automobile to the Statue of Liberty.

• Randy Olson says:

What? You don’t have a car that drives over water? Get with the times… 😉

The Holland Tunnel is a NHL. Drive up Fifth Avenue, past the Empire State Building, NY Public Library, and Central Park. (All NHLs.)

• Liberty is in NJ says:

Yup, better sites that are in NY. Well most are, Holland Tunnel is partially in NJ at its eastern terminus.

• Liberty is in NJ says:

Yup but, with NPS permission, you can drive from the NJ mainland onto Ellis Island over the service bridge.

• Liberty is in NJ says:

“Part of New York” The only part is that NY has jurisdiction, just like the US has jurisdiction over the US embassy grounds in London, but you’re not IN the US you’re in London. Liberty is clearly within the state boundaries of NJ, read a map. It’s 1,200 FEET from the mainland shoreline of NJ. It’s 2 MILES from Battery Park. So although NY has jurisdiction over Liberty Island and only about 1/4 of Ellis Island when you’re on or near either you’re IN NEW JERSEY. You can read the Compact or the recent Supreme Court ruling for history or clarification.

15. Vinicius R. Sanches says:

Man, this map is so awesome! This inspired me, from Brazil, to go to the US asap and rent a Motorhome to enjoy that road trip.

Thanks!

16. chinak says:

Genius. Fantastic. Amazing.
Now, there’s a small problem of hunger. And clean air and water. And war. And, you can solve those problems too, right? ‘Cause you sure have me convinced you can do anything. This map you’ve done is really, really great. Thanks for putting it together. I’m planning my trip.

• Randy Olson says:

Ha, thanks for the ego boost! I’m moving to the University of Pennsylvania to start working on machine learning tools to help us better understand the genetics underlying human disease. Hopefully that’s a step in the right direction.

17. Ben says:

Hanford Site, WA? There are many attractions I would go to before that…Mount Saint Helens, Mount Rainer, Ruby Beach, Hoh Rainforest, Hurricane Ridge/Heart Of The Hills Road, Skagit Valley flower farms, Diablo Lake, Mima Mounds, San Juan Islands, the list goes on, and that’s just west of the Cascades!

18. phej says:

I think you mean every state in the continental united states. It’d be hard to drive to Hawaii.

• George says:

Hawaii does have interstate highways.

• phej says:

True, but you can’t road trip _to_ Hawaii.

19. Rener Lemes says:

How much money did you spend on this trip about?

20. JimNtexas says:

A fun twist would be to find the optimum route that touched every CONUS state + Alaska, without requiring a visit to a specific destination within a state.

• Aajaxx says:

It’s been done for the lower 48 if you want to Google it.

21. George says:

I’ve driven through the cornfields of Nebraska from East to West. It is very interesting to see how the climate changes. The East is temperate. The West is desert.

22. Gary Parks says:

I hate to burst your bubMicrosoftshave been using Microsoft Streets and Trips for at least 20 years to do all of this and more. I have never run into a limitation on waypoints. You can schedule start and stop times for each leg of the journey. If you update construction data it will inform you of the trouble areas. Rerouting is a simple click and drag the line to a different location. You can search for every type of point of interest around any location or along your route. I’m not sure if they sell it anymore but I’m currently using 2013 version. You can even put in the price of fuel and the type of milage you get on the highway and city also the size of your gas tank. It will then tell you about when you need to fill up and the total cost of the trip. I use Google Maps on my phone but I always plan a lengthy trip first with Microsofts program. 1

23. Dan Fisher says:

Your “San Andreas Fault, CA” pin is on private property behind a fenced gate down a private road, so please don’t recommend people trespass. Also, the fault is one of the least interesting things in the state. I’d suggest Yosemite National Park.

• thomastcherrick says:

I noticed same problem. Also, the pin is located a good distance east of the San Andreas fault, which runs along CA highway 25 in a set of fairly obvious fault-created valleys. The route should have cut over Highway 46: James Dean was killed where 46 crosses the fault, at an intersection that is necessitated by the roads following the fault-generated topography. A James Dean memorial is nearby: two birds with one stone!

24. Luisa Bell says:

We’re a South African family that will be traveling throughout the US with our Land Rover and this looks like a great route – I have used Roadtrippers.com to plot something similar but will look into the comments too. Tx

• rinogo says:

Before committing to this trip, do some serious research on what you want to see! Having visited many of these states, I can tell you that this route doesn’t take you to the best areas. (Examples: You’d be a bit crazy if you visited Washington without checking out Seattle. The same goes for Tennessee – Nashville beats Memphis handily. And if you drive on I-15 through southern Utah on I-15 and don’t visit Zion National Park, you’ve just made one of the biggest mistakes of your life.) I think Randal intended it more as a fun exercise than as an actual recommendation for a trip.

• Luisa Bell says:

Thanks, will definitely look into your suggestions!

• Maarten says:

I don’t know about Nashville as I have never been, but I have spent a fabulous long weekend in Memphis. As a music fan, seeing the Rock & Soul museum (created by the Smithsonian), Sun Records, Elvis’ home but – for me – especially Stax Records Museum (and Store!) was simply awesome. And then there is the museum created in the hotel where Martin Luther King was murdered. Do not skip Memphis; if you feel you need to visit other places simply add them!

• spacecommander says:

Even if you’re not a big country music fan you gotta go to the country music hall of fame.

• Michelle Tucker says:

I agree. You do NOT want to miss Memphis. In fact, I really enjoyed it a lot better than Nashville. The vibe is awesome, the museums are amazing, and the food is to die for. We’ve been twice we loved it so much. When you stand where Elvis stood, in Sun records, you just get this feeling of awe. Even in his home, I didn’t feel it like I did there.

• Michelle Tucker says:

Oh, and when you make it to MS, Tupelo is pretty awesome too if you’re an Elvis fan. It was worth it to us to go see where he was born. If you don’t mind driving a bit out of your way, I think it’s worth it.

• Will Long says:

This is funny, Memphis is a HORRIBLE city to visit… Graceland is LITERALLY one of the WORST parts of the city. People are murdered all the time in the general vicinity. I live just north of Memphis in Millington, and I can say all this with no hesitation, absolute certainty, and 100% experience! No one in Memphis visits Graceland anyway because we all know it’s a terrible area. The civil rights museum is incredibly overrated as well. Sun records is nice, but only if you’re willing to drive through and park your car in a trashy and crime-ridden neighborhood.

• Tucsonan says:

Four Corners area. if you’re in a range rover and don’t hit Southern Utah from Kanab to Moab….. well, I just don’t know what to tell you

• Luisa Bell says:

In a Defender 130….. and looking into alot of off-road routes! Been driving around South America for the past 2.5 years and try to do less of the PanAm and more of off-roading whenever possible! Will be attending the Overland Expo so may just head up that route and loop back down to Las Vegas! Tx for the suggestion!

• Revan says:

Seconded on the Seattle comment, the Pacific Northwest is gorgeous, take the Ferry (you can drive your car on) over to Friday Harbor for a day– depending on the season you can sometimes see migrating whales right from the beaches. Or go to Mt Rainier National park, there’s a million pretty places in Washington. The Hanford area is pretty desolate because it’s… well radioactive. No one lives in a fifty mile radius (give or take) in any direction. Other people have made comments about changing the map for California as well, as this leaves out the PCH, San Diego (check out La Jolla Cove!), LA, the Redwoods and the Golden Gate.

• df says:

“No one lives in a fifty mile radius”

Well, except the residents of West Richland, Richland, Kennewick, Pasco, Benton City…

• JesusHChrist says:

As far as the Colorado suggestion of Pikes Peak I would suggest checking out Mount Huron instead. Pikes is one of the 54 14,000 ft peaks in Colorado and you can drive to the top of it easily which makes it convenient. If you are feeling adventurous and have a Range Rover, Mt. Huron isn’t too far out of the way and from the 4 wheel drive trial head is a pretty easy hike. It also may have the most beautiful view from the top of all of the mountains in Colorado that I have climbed.

• Michelle Tucker says:

Thanks for that suggestion. I live in Colorado Springs, so of course, Pikes Peak is already on the done list. If I were to do this, I’d want to go places I’d never gone before.

25. Matthew Azzaro says:

You would be a great fit at the company I work for, Quintiq. A big part of our customer base is logistics, where we solve route optimization puzzles, taking into account many factors such as delivery windows, road restrictions, perishable goods windows, driver rules (e.g. don’t drive more than x hours without a break of y minutes). We also solve other types of optimization puzzles in fields such as workforce, manufacturing/supply chain, and much more.

We’re so good at what we do, that we hold world records for several variations of the Vehicle Routing Problem with Time Windows (VRPTW)! Here’s out page about it: http://www.quintiq.com/optimization/vrptw-world-records.html

And if you’re interested, check out our careers page: http://careers.quintiq.com/

26. netwebber says:

This is great. As a fairly experienced roadtripper and driving enthusiast, I’d recommend the following slight alterations. You’ll make all the same stops, plus a few more, and have a MUCH more scenic drive in some places. You’ll add a few hours but I guarantee it’s all worth it. Clockwise, from Southern California:

-At Bakersfield, CA, cut over to CA Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) via CA-166, and take Highway 1 and then US-101 all the way up the coast until Route 26 in Oregon, then head to Portland from here. Not only is it a fabulous drive (probably the best in the country), it also takes you over the Golden Gate Bridge instead of the Bay Bridge. (The Bay Bridge is cool but the Golden Gate is more iconic and fun to drive across.)

-Instead of going from Louisville to Cincinnati via I-71, head over to Frankfort and take Old Frankfort Pike to Lexington, then I-75 up to Cincinnati. Also stop at some distilleries in the Frankfort-Lexington corridor.

-Stick to the route from Ohio to Vermont and DON’T go through Canada even if it’s convenient. Drive across Adirondack Park in New York. You’d be missing one of the US’s gems. Also get some Ben & Jerry’s in Vermont.

-Take US-1 down the Maine coast instead of going back through Augusta.

-Take CT-15 from Milford, CT and then the Hutchinson River Parkway in New York instead of I-95 on your way to New York City. This is a MUST if you’re driving through in the fall. Beautiful colors! (But definitely go down the East Side of Manhattan as on the map. Much more scenic than the West Side.)

-Stop in Richmond on your way back from Norfolk. The same could be said for a few other cities that are slightly bypassed, but don’t you want to see the Museum of the Confederacy?

-Instead of going from Twin Falls, ID to Salt Lake City via I-84, take US-93 to I-80 and drive to Salt Lake City across the Bonneville Salt Flats. There’s no way you can love driving enough to take this kind of trip and NOT visit the Bonneville Speedway and drive on the Salt Flats yourself.

• Anita says:

Don’t take I-75 from Cincinnati to Detroit. Instead take 71 N through Columbus and after eating some crazy good food and craft beer, go North on 23 for your visit to Detroit. Stop in Toledo for it’s art museum and not much more, then after your visit to detroit come back through Ohio and visit Cedar Point in Sandusky and Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of fame.

• Barry Rose says:

O H I O where or where are you? Same for Indianer. The only thing to see on the way fron Indy to Chicago is the wind turbine fields 1/2 way between. Well if anything else ToTo Indiana (named after the dog(Wizard of Oz) would be BLOWN away from the turbine site????

• netwebber says:

“By tomorrow afternoon, we should be seeing clear skies–and absolutely no hope of a thriving tech industry coming your way any time soon.”

“If you can discern which way east or west is, my suggestion is to point the van in either direction and just keep driving until you see a mountain or some sort of major center of culture.”

• netwebber says:

I won’t argue with that! I was in a hurry when I drove across Ohio last year. Next time.

27. Aajaxx says:

Is this the shortest route or the shortest round-trip route?

28. Nick Zmina says:

I’m sure you’ve gotten plenty of comments about modifying your list of locations. How about something slightly different. Input origin / destination location as well as desired number of stops in order to cut down this impossibly long trip to something that a real human might be able to accomplish in a weekend, or a week, or a fortnight.

Also, does the genetic algorithm specify that the routes will not cross over each other? That seems potentially overly restrictive.

• Randy Olson says:

For smaller road trips, I actually recommend tools like this one: http://www.routexl.com/

It’s much more user-friendly for those who don’t know how to code, and it’s free for up to 20 stops.

>”Also, does the genetic algorithm specify that the routes will not cross over each other? That seems potentially overly restrictive.”

Not at all. There are no restrictions applied to the genetic algorithm; it’s just told to optimize for the shortest overall route.

29. Nick Zmina says:

I think the biggest issue people are having with this map is that it’s such a sterile algorithmic based solution. Road trips are anything but. You plan to go to places that are on your route as well as vice versa. This route may be mathematically close to an optimized solution, but no one in their right mind would pick these points exactly.

You can’t have a purely numerical solution to this problem and expect the human element to evaporate.

How should I know? I planned a spring break road trip that encompassed 14 stops in 4 states in 2013. I optimized it myself without the use of a genetic algorithm. I simply used functional requirements to outline the major elements of the trip and then complimented that outline with locations that would fit in the scheme. This provided a much more agreeable route.

Without both sides to the puzzle, you’re left with a route of “least” mileage that takes you 1000 miles out of the way to places you never wanted to go anyway.

30. Matt says:

Sorry, but how is Niagara Falls not in the top 50 US landmarks? Especially since it’s right along the route anyway, and would be easy to add as a stop.

• Michael1959 says:

Nobody said that you can’t add stops.

• Aaron Hughes says:

I had the same thought. Don’t call it the ‘ultimate American road trip’ but bypass the largest waterfall in North America.
Take the I-190 north from I-90.

• Carol Ann Hill says:

You must be from California. Saying “the” in front of a route number gives it away. 🙂

• Aaron Hughes says:

Naw. 😉 I’ve never been farther west than Lubbock, TX. I lived in Jacksonville, FL. for nearly two decades before taking work and moving to west New York state. I’m rather unfamiliar with Californian mannerisms but I’ll take your word for it.

• kapryt says:

My first reaction… How do you miss that in the list… And the route is within 10-15 miles of it too. I understand how conceptually because the algorithm is based on “National Parks” and Niagara Falls is a New York State Park, but I guess that goes to show computers can’t solve everything

31. TuckerdogNC says:

OMG.
I had a map on my wall when I was a kid, 15-17, where I had created a
road trip I wanted to take in a VW bus (of course). (This is mid 60s) It started in Ft
Lauderdale and I mapped every 400-500mi (This, mind you was by hand)
connecting national parks so I could stay cheaply, but having money to
stay in hotels in SF, Seattle, Chicago and NYC. This is so close to what
I mapped out it is frightening. The big differences: I went directly
from New Orleans and across to San Antonio.. I chose White Sands NM across to Grand Canyon, over to LA,
Almost the rest of the trip is the same except for Cape Hatteras to
Charleston. I did the same thing. Mapped National parks, etc. Never took the trip… but this brings back
memories. I believe I had created it to take about 25 days and gas then was about 25 cents a gallon, so it almost seemed doable 🙂 PS: I actually kept the map rolled up thru college and finally
tossed it out somewhere in the late 70s.

• Randy Olson says:

It’s too bad you didn’t keep that map. It would have been really neat to see!

32. TuckerdogNC says:

Randal: Somewhere in a box of photos there is probably a photograph of it before it was taken down. I used to take pics of my bedroom all the time as a kid… and it would have still been up for part of the early 70s when I was in college. I was also into math big time, so it was an exercise in time, money, miles per gallon, that sort of thing.

I remember now, I chose Milwaukee and Chicago instead of dropping down to KC … and I went directly down 95 rather than the loop to W Va.

The map was this very cool typography relief map and I had colored push pins in it for the stops. I used different colors, like red for a camping stop, yellow for a national park stop, green for “money” stop at a hotel …

33. TuckerdogNC says:

Randal: Somewhere in a box of photos there is probably a photograph of
it before it was taken down. I used to take pics of my bedroom all the
time as a kid… and it would have still been up for part of the early
70s when I was in college. I was also into math big time, so it was an
exercise in time, money, miles per gallon, that sort of thing.

I remember now, I chose Milwaukee and Chicago instead of dropping down to
KC … and I went directly down 95 rather than the loop to W Va.

pins in it for the stops. I used different colors, like red for a
camping stop, yellow for a national park stop, green for “money” stop at
a hotel …

34. Glad Atlanta made the Interesting Cities list. Personally I would’ve put Austin above Houston, but still incredibly interesting. 🙂

35. Looking at the popular city map, I’ve got one word:

Branson?

• Barry Rose says:

Lake of the Ozark is pretty and a good place to hide if you’re an outlaw !!!

36. Guest says:

Why is it ordered 31) Vermont, 32) Michigan, 33) Ohio, 34) Kentucky? Shouldn’t it be 31) Vermont, 32) Ohio, 33) Michigan, 34) Kentucky? That’s what the map seems to suggest. If your current ordering is correct, then the map shows you going through Cleveland on the way to Detroit, then going back to Cleveland, then partially taking the route back to Detroit to then go down to Kentucky. If you were indeed intending to go VT–>MI–>OH–>KY, shouldn’t you cut through the middle of Ohio (through Columbus or nearby) instead of almost going to Indiana? Or maybe you made a typo when listing the destinations 😛

• Randy Olson says:

The stop in Cleveland is an extra stop I had to add to force the route to stay in the U.S. rather than take the shorter route through Canada.

• Max says:

do you know any interesting places that this change of route would be bringing us to? i’m planing a major roadtrip across the us, taking between 6 months to a year off everything. I’m canadian BTW

37. Tucsonan says:

if you’re into cliche’, this trip is for you

• Randy Olson says:

I’d make a hipster road trip, but I fear I’d ruin it by publishing it.

• Dixie Carter's Lazy Eye says:

Touche.

38. Zaza says:

This is super interesting, but as a Montanan I have to say: I know no one who considers Billings to be a great place to visit relative to some other Montana cities. Bozeman and Missoula are both far more interesting and beautiful.

39. Craven Bacon says:

Billings Montana? Have you ever been to Billings Montana? Sweet Jesus its the worst place in Montana. For the love of god, go to Missoula instead or really anywhere OTHER than Billings.

• belgium2 says:

Right?

• Jason Reichert says:

No kidding… include Billings when at least two of the North Dakota cities are more appealing. Forget Trip Advisor and add a trip to Bismarck via the Badlands and Teddy Roosevelt Nat’l Park.

• Mandy Hubbard says:

At 19 I got sent there on a work trip. Wasn’t old enough for a car rental and was told there would be taxis. Walked out the tiny airport and was shell-shocked and called Mom to ask what to do. HAHA!

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• Ruth H says:

We made a special trip to Missoula just to see the levels of the great floods. Then followed the route of them down to the coast where the Columbia River met the Pacific Ocean. It was a great treat and if I were not 78 and living on the Texas Coast I would repeat that trip.

40. Michael O says:

You are doing a disservice by missing the enter Pacific Coast Highway. Some of the most scenic sites in a America are up and down that coast line.

• Barry Rose says:

PCH is God’s country. I would love to bike from Portland Or area to Santa Barbara Ca. then over to the Hoover Dam. Then Grand Canyan to thru Monument Valley to Mesa Verde Durango=Million Dollar Hwy to Ouray Co. then Back to Lake Tahoe thru Utah’s maize of parks and monuments. WOW!!!

• Barry Rose says:

PCH is God’s country. I would love to bike from Portland Or area to Santa Barbara Ca. then over to the Hoover Dam. Then Grand Canyan to thru Monument Valley to Mesa Verde Durango=Million Dollar Hwy to Ouray Co. then Back to Lake Tahoe thru Utah’s maize of parks and monuments. WOW!!!

41. Tony Rodriguez says:

So, not to be too much of a jerk, but solving a 50 city TSP to optimality isn’t a big deal these days. Was this just to showcase a genetic algorithm?

• Randy Olson says:

You’re right, which is why I’m not submitting this to PNAS for publication. 😉

This is really just to show a practical application of optimization. I used a GA because it’s my tool of choice for optimization (see my research :-P).

42. dandelany says:

Very nice! When I was in college (2006), I took a trip with my friends to visit every county seat in the state of Colorado (there are 64). Being a programmer, I also implemented a genetic TSP-solver to determine the route and ended up with a very similar map – except smaller and entirely within state bounds. Here’s the map I generated: http://cognitiveharmony.net/countytrip/bigone.gif

And here’s the travelogue of our adventures: http://thecountytrip.blogspot.com/

• Randy Olson says:

That’s awesome! Thank you for sharing. I hope to see more of these. 🙂

43. Guest says:

So you get to drive through every state except North Dakota lol

• Trinda Weaver says:

His route goes north thru the western part of North Dakota.

44. mandelia says:

genius! btw, you don’t have to “force” yourself to visit cleveland, it’s actually pretty swell!

45. Kevin Lynch says:

I’d like you to run the algorithm for some UK, Rep of Ireland and Great Britain trips. What’s the best way to provide the data for you to process?

46. Tran Nguyen says:

Thanks Mr. Olson. You’re so smart to create these travel maps.

47. Mendewesz says:

Hi, is there a way you could post the .kml file for the map? Id like to import the locations for my own map I’m creating in google my maps but I cant seem to be able to do that with your map. Thanks!

48. Noel Walling says:

You literally tried to find the path that has the least interesting scenery, and the least number of interesting landmarks through California. Napa/Sonoma wine country? Nope. Golden Gate? Nope. PCH? Nope. Carmel/Big Sur? Nope. Yosemite/Sequoia National Park? Nope. Santa Barbara? Nope. Hollywood/LA Beaches? Nope. Death Valley? Nope. San Diego? Nope.

What did you manage to hit? A sweet, sweet trip through Fresno, Oakland, Gilroy, Bakersfield and Barstow. It’s like the hick-gangster’s dream journey through the butt-crack of the Golden State.

• netwebber says:

It’s not that this is the BEST drive, it’s just a pretty good solution to find the fastest route that visits a given set of landmarks. It makes a great starting point that can be modified easily to make it a lot better. For example, drive from Las Vegas to LA and then up the PCH, and you get LA beaches, Santa Barbara, Big Sur, and the Golden Gate Bridge. With a few minor detours you can hit Death Valley and Napa. You could even do a longer route to include San Diego. (Yosemite is great but a pretty far out of the way, and have fun with traffic if you want to visit Hollywood.) I don’t think anyone taking the Great Roadtrip is going to drive through California as quickly as possible, but it’s a good thing I-5 exists for economic reasons. See my post for more suggestions.

• Joe says:

I love what you’ve done here! Thank…this is super cool. It make me want to map all the routes I have taken.

For me, instead of driving 101 South (considering you apparently don’t want to see Monterrey, Big Sur, Point Conception, Santa Barbara, Malibu, aka the greatest Coast Line on the planet and then end up in LA/Hollywood) I’d prefer leaving the Bay Area 580 East, routing across the San Joaquin. I mean, if you are taking a road trip to see National Parks and Monuments, why wouldn’t you want to go to the FIRST ONE, Yosemite. And then travel 41 South to 180 East in to the west gate of King’s Canyon National Park (you don’t need to drive in to the Canyon, though is in my opinion a Billion times more beautiful that Yosemite) and then travel the King’s Highway (198), and all that time see the most majestic Trees on the face of this entire planet, the Sequoias. Then travel 99 South (back on to your route)

And you can still see the San Andres Fault if you travel through Bakersfield, up the Grapevine and stop in Frazier Park/Fort Tejon. Then travel 138 East and cut across the Antelope Valley, possibly driving 14 North to back to the 58 East as your route suggests or take 138 to the 15 East (same highway to Vegas in the end).

And if Superfund sites are something you are into seeing, there is a great one in Oxnard CA, the Halaco site. I used to play on the toxic waste heaps that they made when I was kid, having no idea…they made great BMX jumps…what did we know?

• rwksict says:

Actually, the first one was Yellowstone, but Yosemite is definitely worth a trip. https://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm
https://www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm

• Joe says:

I just saw this comment from rwksict.

The National Park Bill of 1872 that created Yellowstone was EIGHT years after Yosemite had already been set aside as park land for the entire Nation. Known as the Yosemite Grant, enacted by the 38th Congress and singed into law by Abraham Lincoln on June 30 1864.

• Tyler Perry says:

And he skipped every single sight in Oregon as well (making sure to differentiate my sight from site, since i’m talking about the sights you see on the journey hehe).

Interstate 5 through Cali/Oregon/Washington is like driving through the midwest- it’s boring and there’s nothing to do or see. It’s all flat farmland, it’s the corridor. (Yeah there are some passes and a little mountain scenery, but compare that to Highway 89, 101, 36, 44, 97, etc, Interstate 5 is the most boring route you can take).

• Marty Sunderland says:

Although Ashland is great fun.

• Carol Goldsberry-Albrecht says:

That is one boring long drive, I would much prefer to go down the PCH. But with that said, this map is a a guide to follow, not one to be taken in stone. Oh and you left out Monterrey in your list of California site, love their aquarium.

49. Stephen Ashby says:

Since I live in the Pennsylvania/DelMarVa area, I’d actually suggest a different route from Philly to Washington. The Cape May route you use is dependent upon a Ferry that only runs at certain schedules. The better route would be to head west from Philly through Lancaster to Gettysburg (to get another historic site). From there you could double back and take 83 south to Baltimore, or take 15 south to Frederick, MD (which would give you the choice to go east to Baltimore, south east to Washington, or south west to Harper’s Ferry and then Washington).

Anyway, bold endeavor. I’m sure there’s many other suggestions on how to do something so encompassing. Great job!

• Eleonore Thomas says:

Stephen, So you’re suggesting that he skip over the “Del” in Delmarva entirely? Your suggested route eliminates both Delaware’s landmark and the landmark chosen for New Jersey.

That being said the Cape May route doesn’t actually take anyone to the landmark he chose for for Delaware! The landmark he suggests is part of Delaware’s National Monument, Historic New Castle, but he takes the traveler through southern Delaware. This routh not only avoids the landmark he speaks of, but does not even travel to any of our historic sites, the state capitol of Dover, or even the Dutch settlement, Zwaanendael.

• Stephen Ashby says:

Fair point, though for New Jersey he could easily hit Trenton or Princeton on the way from NY (both major battles in the Revolutionary War, including Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware), and hit Iron Hill near Newark, DE (site of the Battle of Iron Hill), not to mention any number of historic sites in and around Wilmington on the way to Gettysburg.

50. Joe P says:

Be nice to have the .gpx data

• Randy Olson says:

If anyone turns this route into a GPX file, please share it here. There have been several requests for a GPX version of the route.

• Joe P says:

The original Google map can be converted to .gpx by gpsvisualizer.com.

51. furkot says:

So cool! We can’t decide what we like more: a chance to finally use genetic algorithm, or a chance to actually go on a road trip like that.

• Randy Olson says:

GAs are super useful in many optimization problems. I think they’re under-appreciated in the optimization community. 🙂

• furkot says:

Agreed. And apparently unappreciated in the road trip planning community 😉 There is a new Furkot feature lurking somewhere here. We’ll let you know if we hack something inspired by this post.

52. Zach Prater says:

I may have to put this algorithm to the ultimate test…I’ve been wanting to quit my job and take my own trip across the U.S. myself! Basically roughing it out in a rooftop tent on my Jeep and seeing more of the country. This could be a potentially awesome campaign to send over to Kickstarter or some sort of crowd funding to fund the trip! How fun!

53. LisaMarli says:

As someone who takes a Great Road Trip every summer, this is fun. No, we probably won’t do this one, but it is good for ideas. Usually there are some planned destinations in our trip to visit family and friends. But yes, we start with Google Maps and mark the Must Attends, then begin to plot. Since I’m a Google Mapper, and all my stopping points are “Starred”, I can see the ghosts of my trips overlaying yours.
PS Going from Detroit to NYState through Canada and Niagara Falls was highly recommended by all my friends and we’re glad we did. The Canadian side is very touristy, but it has the best Fall Views.
PPS Have you been to Vermont? It is gorgeous, but it has little in the way of cities, most of it is tiny towns. Even their main state roads are two lanes, 1 in each direction, no dividers. But it is well worth the visit.

54. taser_this says:

From experience dropping into regions of the U.S for the specific purpose of visiting National sites for the National Parks Passport, I recognize some lost opportunities. You might add many sites without significant or any diversion. For instance, when traversing South Dakota, you route might actually pass directly by the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site as just an exit on the highway.

Adjusting the algorithm to add opportunistic sites, within x miles or x minutes, would be an interesting exercise. It would be fun to see how many sites you could add without meaningful diversion.

• Calvin Bond says:

Is the Minuteman Missile Site open? The last time I drove through western SD, it was still in development.

55. Trinda Weaver says:

I want to see a map that visits every state capital in the lower 48!

56. diablito says:

I never plan my trips. I head in a direction and pick and choose my route along the way. The ONLY thing I ever plan for really are gas station distances. I ride a motorcycle and I average about 140 miles per tank, if I ride conservatively. Depending on how aggressive I wanna ride, I get less mileage. And I really don’t want to push a 600 lb bike anywhere. Depending on how far I’m willing to go also accounts for a couple extra measures of planning. Like, flat tires, blowouts, and minor mechanical issues. I truly hope those never happen. But I would love to do this or a similar road trip one day.

57. Emily Griffiths says:

How about a version for cyclists?

58. bmv says:

Map #2 skips North Dakota.

59. Matthew Randles says:

Your city route doesn’t include North Dakota. You only hit 47 of the contiguous 48 states.

60. Tony Man says:

Here is our post, we took the Lincoln highway out to California then coastal highway along the coast and route 66 back home. There were a few side trips along the way.
My wife and I were on the road for about a month.
http://lincolnhwy.blogspot.com/

61. Revan says:

Stopping at Hanford but not Seattle/the Western part of the State? As an Eastern WA native, I do not advise– unless you’re a WW2 enthusiast. The area around Hanford is barren and boring, and I grew up less than 50 miles from there– so many beautiful places in Washington… this isn’t one of them.

62. John Smith says:

Sorry there are more than just “Cornfields” in Nebraska. Your loss our gain!

63. So Niagra Falls is chopped liver??

Is Niagara Falls part of the National Parks system?
It’s a National Heritage Area, so technically, yes.

64. Douglas Needham says:

While I understand your thrill of creating such an algorithm, your set of sites is rather flawed. Just in the area of Charlottesville/Waynesboro/Staunton VA, you drive right past Monticello and UVA (a World Heritage Site) and are not far from sites such as Montpelier, Ash Lawn-Highland, and other sites for former POTUS. Then there are places such as Skyline Drive/Shenandoah National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway (which includes numerous sites), and the the Cyrus McCormick Farm. Expanding out some, you miss other colonial sites such as Williamsburg and Jamestown, numerous major Civil War sites such as Gettysburg, Manassas/Bull Run, Antietam, and Appomattox Courthouse (and Harper’s Ferry). All of these are major sites important to the history of this nation, and far more deserving of being on the list than say West Baden Springs Hotel…

And regarding that site, I will say that if you are including sites such as that, Hanford, or others just to get a site in a state, you could have picked far better sites. Heck, you could have picked Johnny Appleseed Memorial Park (yes, he is buried there)… but there are other sites which are even better and more widely recognized for Indiana, and the same is true for Washington and Hanford, or Spring Grove Cemetery for Ohio. In the latter case, you totally miss other sites in Ohio, such as the the sites dealing with the first settlement in the Northwest Territory (Marietta OH).

• Calvin Bond says:

To add to Douglas’ 1st paragraph, I would head from Charleston, SC to Raleigh/Durham, NC, then head over to the Outer Banks. Head north through the Norfolk, Va area, over to Richmond and Chalottesville, take Skyline Drive north through Shenandoah NP then continue north to Harpers Ferry, WVa (much more interesting than Lewisburg!). From there on to Antietam, then head back towards Washington, DC or continue north to Gettysburg and head back to DC.

65. Biff Jay says:

Hanford Site is really the best and only thing worth looking at in Washington state?! Seriously?! It has some of the best natural beauty in U.S. and mountains that are equal to if not more than Colorado. The Cascades, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens and more. And….Hanford Site is their choice of a destination for Washington?! Are you flippin kiddin me?!

66. Bullwinkle says:

The computer program itself looks like a good first step toward something useable for people who rely on maps. I don’t mean to pile on, but this does show that “artificial intelligence” merely outputs what you put in. It’s just software.

67. Trish Vidal says:

How do you pass by Niagara Falls without stopping? Why not go down the East coast of Florida, and then back up the West coast? You’re missing the best Florida has to offer.

68. Ken Bauer says:

Where can I get a detailed map of this GREAT road trip???? This would be a fantastic motorcycle trip!!!!!

69. LawTrekker says:

Randy, as RV’ers hoping to make just such a trip someday, my husband and I will make great use of your work. Suggestion: Submit various versions of this to travel magazines, making sure to include AAA and RV’ing magazines in the mix. I’m sure that, as a grad student, you can use the few dollars the publications would pay you! 🙂

70. Dave Bihn says:

Instead of coming up with a fairly forced explanation for having 2 stops in California and then having a even more forced 51st stop with absolutely no ‘destination site’ makes no sense at all. Try skipping the 2nd California site and go see the Garfield Monument at Lakeview Cemetery!!!

71. Tony Intrieri says:

Interstates were made to move freight and to get people in a hurry places quickly. A Road trip is about seeing things and blending into the part of the
country you happen to be in. Hitting secondary landmarks and interesting
places. Sorry Randy but you can’t make a road trippers route and have them on the interstates. If you are in San Fran and you go to Portland you TAKE ROUTE 1. This should be named the Quickest way to the follow points of interest and not a road trip map.

Could redefine Mississippi as visiting MLK/Lorraine rather than Gradeland.

73. Eleonore Thomas says:

Is the “Ultimate Road Trip” map supposed to actually take you to the landmark in each state? Because the route that it traces through Delaware, takes you NOWHERE near the New Castle Historic District.

My edit: I-95 from DC to NYC.
Fort McHenry, New Castle, Philadelphia, Edison labs, Holland Tunnel/Bell Labs/Empire State Bulding/Public Library/Rockefeller Center/Central Park.

74. Walter Engler says:

Damn misleading links. They all said things like “Scientist plots BEST way to visit all 48 states”. So here I jump to the article thinking Wow, maybe someone has improved on genetic algorithms and approximation techniques to truly find the BEST solution. And what do I find .. crap. Rehashing of the old Genetic Algorithm / heuristic search processes that have been around for what .. at least 25 years now. Sure the processes have improved over time. But it’s NOT news worthy. I do not want close to perfect. I want the PERFECT solution and a way to reach it within a reasonable amount of time. When a scientist develops some method to do that, call me. Until then, this is old, old news.

75. Yukon Cornelius says:

You’ll shave at least 50 miles off the trip if you skip the “Cascade Locks/ Columbia River Gorge”, and instead head down US 97 from “Hanford Site” to “Crater Lake National Park” … looping around the lake via OR 138 & OR 62 … then resuming down US 97 until it intersects I-5 at Weed, CA. 🙂

76. This is so amazing! I love everything about maps! And I’m an MSU alumni, too! So this is super-cool!

77. Kel says:

If you do take the “city” map seriously, don’t skip over Vermont. Visit Burlington and/or Montpelier. They’re not huge cities per say but they are beautiful and entertaining.

• NightSkyForest says:

Totally agreed. I’m appalled that Vermont wasn’t included in the second route, and who are these people ranking cities on TripAdvisor where Burlington isn’t even in the top 400? Burlington is one of my top 5 cities to visit. And Vermont, as a whole, is gorgeous. I can also think of a few states I’d rather visit less than West Virginia and North Dakota.

78. Barry Rose says:

Going to Houston instead of San Antonio is LUDICROUS. Other areas as well are not what a majority would want to see. Yes BYPASS Randy and do your own to have a swinging time. Durando’s
Million Dollar Hwy then to Salt Lake

• James Sheives says:

Texas landmark is the Alamo, so yeah, not sure why map goes to Houston.

• Barry Rose says:

the River Walk and the Market as well as Old Town

• RBBrittain says:

There’s two different maps here. The one for landmarks goes to the Alamo; the one for cities goes to Houston.

79. jeepers23 says:

Science is a wonderful thing. In just a few years you won’t even have to drive the car, it will do it itself. You will be able to sleep for the entire trip. Make sure you set your alarm so you know when the trip is over. Maybe just send the car by itself, then you can sleep in your own bed. Sometimes science only fools itself.

80. The problem, of course, is that the only state Maine borders is New Hampshire, so unless you are allowed to visit Canada, you will have to backtrack and visit New Hampshire twice (abandoning the Hamilton Cycle), or forget about Maine altogether (or take a ferry from Maine to Massachusetts, which seem to be missing from my Rand McNally’s).

But if you allow Canada, you have to ask is Canada one point on the graph, or should all the provinces be considered separately (in which case you have to take some ferries around the Maritimes and Newfoundland) ?

81. Sean Clancy says:

How’d you manage Okefenokee Swamp but not the Everglades?

82. Larry Tremblay says:

There are two Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Manchester, N.H. Definitely worth the trip.

83. Yvonne Feller Freeman says:

Seriously? You leave out Niagara Falls for the Statue of Liberty? (Not that NF, NY is amazing, but people can view from the Canadian side – and it IS still one of the 7 wonders!!!) And omit Crazy Horse? You could fit Mt. Rushmore in Crazy Horse’s Armpit…

• Calvin Bond says:

You can, and should, do both Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse in the same day. And there’s got to be a way to fit in Devil’s Tower on the road to Williston, ND!

Is Niagara Falls part of the National Parks system?

84. Sheep O'Doom says:

Randal your Computer is Dumb. Lets face it it chose for Missouri the C. W. Parker Carousel Museum, KS & the Gateway arch. However in Kansas cityMo. You have the Liberty Memorial & WWI Museum the ONLY OFFICIAL WWI Museum dedicated by the allied forces after the war. It missed The Battle of Westport the only Major Battle West of the Mississippi. It missed the Truman Library also In Independence. As for Kansas I think Dodge City would have been a better option than some Carousel Museum.

85. TJ Fenton says:

I’m 50 now, and am purchasing a Class C motor home when I retire. I’m selling the house and hitting the road to see this great country on the two-lane highways as much as possible. I’d welcome some tips on books or websites to find interesting things to see in my travels.

86. newguy02 says:

As someone from Flint, MI and now living in Grand Forks, ND…I actually would prefer visiting Grand Forks from a tourist standpoint but would prefer to live in Flint from a personal standpoint (home is where the heart is after all).

87. Dakotalas says:

My Dad had a US road map that he used to highlight every highway he traveled so if he went through that region again, he would travel a different route. He did this before computers, or GPS, in fact it started in a Model A from ND to WA with his parents and grandma. He loved to see whatever was on the way, famous or fields, and talk to the people of the area. He instilled that same love of new places in me and I think I would rather wander a little than have too much of a preset route. Sometimes the neatest places to see and learn from aren’t where everyone else goes but off the radar. Thanks for the fun map.

88. kevingt says:

I would have chosen Yosemite/Redwoods over the San Andreas fault. Leaving the Hoover Dam/Las Vegas, head up Highway 95 to Highway 6. Highway 6 to Highway 120 right through Yosemite. Then head straight over to San Francisco. I also would have gone to Seattle/the Space Needle rather than Hanford in Washington.

89. meburnette says:

This is not accurate. Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon are not optimal, sorry. Zion National Park (UT) and the Virgin River Canyon Recreational Area (AZ) are much closer to I-15 and would take approximately 6 hours or more off this route. It is clearly not the most efficient. It is the most efficient way to see the things the author wants to see. At that point anybody can throw together a map like this.

90. John Bowers says:

So, you go through Cleveland but not Pittsburgh… Refuse to take this seriously.

91. Brawndo says:

Best cities and you pick Wichita, KS? Have you ever been to Wichita? At least go to KC and get some damn bbq.

92. Alisa Johnson says:

This is the approximate route my family took June 28-August 17, 2014 to visit all 51 US capitals in 51 days. I laboriously put it together in Photoshop before we left on our trip. 51in51.com

P.S. I agree – Hanford?

• chelseasmom03 says:

This map doesn’t even come close to the capital of WV. It only goes through the northen part of the state. Charleston is down in the southern part.

• Alisa Johnson says:

Yes, I know about the West Virginia’s error. Like I said, I laboriously put it together piece by piece in Photoshop because neither Mapquest or GoogleMaps will let you have this many stops on a map. No one noticed that error until after the trip and I haven’t fixed it. 😉 I assure you, we did indeed go to Charleston.

93. Sara says:

Super cool idea! For those of us that are not great at the computer coding thing (I’m confident I could figure it out since I have done a little programming for my own PhD, but am not sure I want to at this moment in time since I barely have time to sleep, let alone finish my own research and tinker with side projects haha), it would be AMAZING if you made a separate website that users could search for waypoints of their choosing on and then just click “submit” to have the results and map emailed to them. I realize that involves a lot of hosting and resources and whatnot, but I bet you’d make a bunch in advertising to make it worth your while! Particularly since you’re already working with Discovery News to get the word out there. Just a thought.

If I get around to trying the code out myself, I would definitely want a route to visit every national park in the US, and a separate one to visit every national park in Canada!

94. Dan Wohl says:

Is the San Andreas Fault something anyone can even see at all?

I don’t want to put down this entire well-thought out concept and exercise, but choosing that to represent California makes painfully little sense.

95. Ty Vulpine says:

I would have included Rockville Historic Cemetery (resting place of MLB hall of famer Walter Johnson) or St Mary’s Historic Cemetery (where F. Scott Fitzgerald is buried), both in Maryland. But that would remove the Annapolis State House (oldest state house still in use, opened 1776).

96. Darlene Hicks Bruno says:

Thank you!!! I am planning just such a trip in the near future. This will be a great help in planning.

97. Dixie Carter's Lazy Eye says:

I know there’s not much here in Kansas, but you couldn’t at least find something a little further in, like the Brown v. Board of Education Building?

98. Nickie says:

Is it possible to get the turn-by-turn directions for this with editable stops? I’m not a developer and don’t feel comfortable trying to modify the code you provided. I want to add a couple of stops on either end of Canada.

• Randy Olson says:

You’ll have to plug the stops into Google Maps; the map I made was for visualization purposes only.

99. Nicole says:

Yes! One of the things on my bucket list is actually to take a road trip of all 48 so I’m definitely going to use this one day. Probably Summer of 2016.

Because Flint beats the hell out of Detroit?

101. Matthew Kaufman says:

FYI, You actually list the Fox Theater in Detroit in the wrong location on the map. It’s in (beautiful) downtown Detroit and not up near Highland Park so you actually can shave off about 6 miles from your overall total. Fantastic work though and I will share with other MSU fans! Go Green!

102. Steve Sorbo says:

I would nominate Maryhill State Park in WA. It’s only around 117 miles from Handford.

103. Lisa Kolbe says:

you didnt include the southern most point of the U.S. key west , fla ………..

104. Virginia Shea says:

Hard to believe that people would rather visit Flint, MI, than the charming city of Burlington, VT. Tripadvisor is a handy information source, but I’m not sure it’s reliable enough to use as the ultimate authority for a once-in-a-lifetime trip like this!

105. belgium2 says:

It’s perhaps the most efficient, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say optimal. The US route misses a great many fantastic parts of our nation; for example, instead of connecting Utah and Colorado through the south, you don’t go through that section which is one of the most prettiest parts of the USA.
Moab and Arches through to the Canyonlands and then across to Durango and the San Juans is just pure amazing, gorgeousness. Algorithms can’t know that.

106. slafrent . says:

I’ve done a lot of these segments. IMHO the prettiest segment is US 287 from Rawlins to the Tetons. You cross the continental divide several times and there’s an historical marker every mile or so. But gas up first – there’s not many opportunities to fill up. And you may not see another vehicle all day.

107. peachnectar says:

All I can say is, “You geeks and nerds rule!”

108. James Bishop says:

Why don’t you just map a route through all the state capitols so none are left out and in doing so, you will likely also be able to hit many other worthy spots between?

109. James Bishop says:

Why don’t you just map a route through all the state capitols so none are left out and in doing so, you will likely also be able to hit many other worthy spots between?

110. Steve Carter says:

I been to every state Multiple times. Don’t waste your time with KC or St Louis. Omitting Milwaukee and Chicago would be a crime! The second Map is, by far, the better choice. I’ll still give credit to the BBQ in Kansas…But the people are COLD.

111. Marvelous Marsupial says:

Since I’m shite at programming, I don’t suppose you could do a new route to include the 6 bordering Canadian provinces? (Sorry Newies)

112. Carole Sinclair says:

Love it. Don’t forget that the National Park Service has a passport book that can be stamped at each park and they have photo stamps to add to the book also. I am a big National Park fan. I really have enjoyed collecting the stamps and it has enhanced my time spent at the parks.

113. kapryt says:

Niagara Falls?!? Just a Natural Wonder of the World… The route goes right through Buffalo failing to stop (at all) in Niagara Falls

114. Michelle Meeker says:

Pals of ours did 51 Capitals in 51 days earlier this year. Google it!

115. Joe Skinner says:

The list of landmarks seems sub-optimal.

116. markpetersonii says:

People are all freaking out about how the stops aren’t actually good stops. How about you use it as a guideline and make your own. No one is perfect, not even machines.

117. Kimberly Robinson says:

Hello Randy! We have been looking to create a route for a trip around the U.S. In our RV in August! We are going to use this map to travel!

Thank you! We will blog about it and you should look us up

• CocktailTravellers.com says:

What’s your blog Kimberly? Did you end up doing the road trip? I would love to hear more about it

118. Art Naranjo says:

I got a road map on the wall of my living room. I highlighted all the freeways and roads I traveled. West Coast to East Coast. Up and down the coastlines. The Southwest, the Northwest, The Rocky Mountains, Midwest, New England States. Only part missing are the Southern States. Makes a hell of an interesting subject to talk about when guest show up.

119. Rebecca says:

Love this! Just so you know, the statue of liberty is in NJ

The island is part of New York. It’s in New Jersey waters, so it’s an enclave.

120. Joan says:

In the summer of 1964, my Social Studies teacher parents took us 5 kids in a station wagon and 14ft trailer to all 48 states. We had daily worksheets. The countryside through I past was …, The historical markers I saw today were…, The major crops grown here are… It was the trip of a lifetime.

121. RBBrittain says:

At least 23 of your 50 landmarks do NOT fall into any of the categories you listed (National Natural Landmarks, National Historic Sites, National Parks, or National Monuments). I believe you ALSO included National Historic Landmarks, which are DIFFERENT from both National Natural Landmarks & National Historic Sites; IIRC if you add that option all 50 sites qualify.

The key distinction: National Historic *Sites*, like National Parks and most National Monuments, are operated by the National Park Service. (A few National Monuments are operated by other Federal agencies.) National Historic *Landmarks*, like National Natural Landmarks, can be operated by anyone.

122. justafish says:

Whoa, did you really just route all the way down to Southern California only to skip Los Angeles / Santa Monica? That’s just wrong!

123. CarbonGod says:

Best city in Delaware is Wilmington???? It’s the best chance of getting killed. Plus, there is not really ANYTHING to do there…..the “water front” is still a ghost town. Blech. Not following THIS list!

• Liberty is in NJ says:

Yup, would be better for DE and NJ sites to drive the Lewes and take the ferry.

124. consumedesign says:

Awesome and would love to do it someday but you missed something huge. Burlington to the Adirondacks should go through 3 to Watertown and then down 81, missing some amazing parts of the park.

125. David Grey says:

So here we have a least cost path model visiting the major sites in the USA. That is great if you are looking to check things off a list but is this the best way to see America. I would say no. Look at the route taken. It seems that the majority of miles are on interstate freeways. How many interesting miles have you spent on these straight thoroughfares? Wouldn’t you want to travel through places such as the Million Dollar Highway; Independence Pass; The Pacific Coast Highway; Blue-ridge Parkway; and the Devil’s Backbone (and many many others). What about the Olympic National Park, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Zion, Bryce, Capital Reef, Moab,…? Pretty boring travels if you ask me.

126. A Nony Mous says:

Nm

127. Pamela Winter says:

Hate to burst your bubble, but the Statue of Liberty is officially located in New Jersey, as well as Ellis Island.

The island is actually New York land. It’s an enclave.
Besides, taking the Holland Tunnel qualifies, as it’s a NHLandmark. Go up Fifth Avenue, and you also see the following NHLs: Empire State Building, NY Public Library, Central Park.

128. consumedesign says:

Is there a way to export this to be used in google maps so you can change the pinpoints, routes and get the time distances between it all?

129. Rene Kratz says:

This is so awesome. In a couple of years, when my husband turns 50, he’s going to bike across the US. I plan to drive at the same time with my son, visiting landmarks and occasionally meeting up with my husband. I wanted to take my son to as many national landmarks as I could. I think you just planned our route!

130. PapaGUnit says:

When I saw this, this snopes came to mind haha http://www.snopes.com/travel/trap/landmarks.asp

131. Phil the observer says:

Hell, the tri-cities and Walla Walla are better than Hanford

132. Michael Mathews says:

I have really been wanting to see some parts of the US that I seem to fly over all the time. These two maps have given me some ideas. I’ll never be able to take off 2-3 months, but I can do pieces of it from time to time.

Also, Burlington, VT and nearby Shelburne are > many of the places Trip Advistor has on its best cities list.

133. Jayme Zimmerman says:

Grew up going to Mt. Vernon almost every year. Not that cool and I definitely wouldn’t list it as something that worth while to see up in VA. Sure, for the time efficiency it’s neat but there is literally so much history shit in VA that u can kinda skip right over Mt. Vernon but I will say the blacksmith is cool

Hit the Civil War sites on I-66, then I-81 to WV, and then a stop in Greensboro, NC. This eliminates the backtracking from Norfolk.

134. Jeff Kardos Jr. says:

So do you take into account the curvature of the Earth, the terrain? Corridors with traffic congestion? Toll booths? Weather? The number of fuel stations? What vehicle is to be used?

135. Pat Young says:

As a former resident of CT, New Haven is not the best city. Go to Mystic. It has a great aquarium, one of the best steakhouses in the region (Steak Loft), and has much more a New England feel than New Haven. Although New Haven does have one of the best pizza places in the country at Frank Pepe’s. Still, Mystic overall is much better.

136. Jeff Kardos Jr. says:

Why would you go on the Garden State Parkway to get to Cape May from 47 when you can stay on 47 to get to Rio Grande? The Garden State Parkway is a toll road.

Why does he have you crossing the Delaware Bay via US 9 when all there is, is a seasonal ferry there? Randy Olson is a fool.

Stay on I-95 out of DC (Fort McHenry-Philadelphia, New Castle, West Orange, NYC). Yup, a toll road. I guess you could take US1, but that would add a month to travel time?

137. Is either of these road trips compatible for RV travel. We have a 37ft Class A Motorhome. Just was wondering if these roads were suitable for RV travel

• Randy Olson says:

The majority of these trips are spent on interstate highways and should work out fine. It’s worth looking into the routes a little closer when it starts getting into cities.

138. Tusweetsia says:

139. Matt Hagen says:

Great work Randy! Thinking of using your code in our own mapping/traveling salesman problem application.

I had a quick question about how the Google Distance Matrix works in conjunction with what you are feeding it. So, you have 50 waypoints here. And you then you send those waypoints to the Google API, which has restrictions. How many requests actually get registered in one shot toward your daily limit with the 50 waypoints, using your code? I’m trying to get a sense for what kind of setup we need to have with Google, because we will be having customers build a dynamic waypoint list of their own daily.

• Randy Olson says:

Hi Matt! For 50 waypoints, my code would be hitting the API 1,225 times by querying the API for the distance between every waypoint (assuming that the routes A -> B and B -> A are approximately the same distance/duration).

You might want to check out other routing options for a full web service, like GraphHopper (https://graphhopper.com/#directions-api) or Esri (https://developers.arcgis.com/en/features/directions/). Their pricing and routing services might be better depending on your application.

• Matt Hagen says:

Thanks for the tip. Sounds like Google’s API isn’t going to be the way to go here.

140. Lauren Wellman says:

I don’t understand how you could drive through Oregon and completely miss Crater Lake..It’s definitely worth the extra stop.

• Randy Olson says:

Crater lake is so cool! I love Oregon, so there’s plenty of extra places I’d stop there. 🙂

141. Matthew W says:

Some things to take away from this based on the route and the comments made.

First, this route isn’t about the Top 50 sites in the Lower 48. It’s about hitting one place in each state in the most conservative time.

With that said, I feel there are two or three choices that really are out of the way in the route choice. First, the Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, NC is out of the way, and possible choice would be the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, Greensboro, NC. The other would be The Alamo and Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM. Replace those with Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, Texas and Fort Union National Mounment, Watrous, NM. Those route changes save an nearly 12 hours and 900 miles!

A better route through Texas after Carlsbad?
Take the Interstate to Dallas. Yes, travel time is increased once you hit Dallas traffic, but distance is shortened.

142. Edward Lennon says:

This is very cool what you did, but it isnt rocket science. MS Streets and Trips will do this for you just by entering the city or site name. I am an over the road driver and use that program all the time. AND, you forgot Niagara Falls….nice work though. Ed

143. jdayer says:

I agree, stop at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or Cedar Point. Lots of cool places missing on this, Henry Ford Museum and the DIA especially, both amazing museums. How about stopping at amazing shopping sites like Mall of America or Cabelas.

144. Gabe Horn says:

With those kinds of calculations, I bet you can make the Kessel Run in MUCH less than twelve parsecs!

145. Mike Goetz says:

As a baseball fan, my ultimate road trip is to visit all 30 baseball stadiums in one season. This presents a similar starting problem with some caveats — the destinations are set but you have to take the baseball schedule into account so that you can visit each city when the team is playing at home. I wonder if your algorithm can be adapted to produce such a route, noting that the route would vary from year to year as the schedule changes.

146. MJ says:

I LOVED this article !!! I doubt I’d ever be able to travel it all in one gigantuous road trip but, having all the popular/interesting/historical spots and cities listed on one site is great. Thank you for sharing !!!

147. Realistic says:

Optimal? More like casual tourist everybody does road trip.

148. Ajay says:

Hi Randy,

This is truly an amazing piece of technology helping travellers plan :). We (my wife and I) ourselves did a lot of such planning for our multiple across the country road trips (documented at http://ajaydeepa.in.

Keep up the good stuff!

ajay

149. tacoboy says:

Re: compute your own road trip. “This last part is very hacky”….last part? How about the whole thing?

• Randy Olson says:

Hey, thanks for being a positive voice in the world, tacoboy.

Thanks, Randal, for all the information. I’m an experienced programmer but a
Python newbie. I diligently followed the directions with my own waypoints and
got the error
TypeError: ‘str’ does not support the buffer interface
for
the statement
with open(“my-waypoints-dist-dur.tsv”, “wb”) as
out_file:

out_file.write(“t”.join([“waypoint1”,

“waypoint2”,

“distance_m”,
“duration_s”]))

I’ll try
some more debugging, but does that error hint at anything in particular?

We just made a road trip on our RV from South Florida do Colorado in 18 days… and was quite rush. I wish I have enough money or a on-the-go job as there is nothing better than traveling… specially road trips!
We will definitely do this route one day… and even extend it to Alaska.
–> Randy: If you have any tips on a road trip from FL to Alaska I will love to see!

152. Nice work, but I found 3 bugs in that Ultimate American Road Trip:

153. Jeff Douglas says:

Great map!! It’s very similar to our 2 yr journey across Merica!

http://whereintheworldis.jeffdouglas.com/map/

154. JoeCommentor says:

Really, ‘San Andreas Fault’ instead of Yosemite?

155. 123Rachel says:

Can you combine the National Park and city trips together? THAT would be the road trip to end all road trips.

156. herrkaefer says:

Great work and thanks for sharing! … I have two questions: 1) I did not find crossover in your algorithm, for GA its an important component; 2) the size of new population is always reduced to 100, no matter what its initial (expected) value.

For 2), I rewrote line 141-142 to:

for i in range(len(new_population)):
population[-1-i] = new_population[i]

• Randy Olson says:

>1) I did not find crossover in your algorithm, for GA its an important component

I considered adding crossover to the GA; however, for TSP I could not think of an easy AND good way to perform crossover. Since the genomes are an ordered list of locations to visit — and a location can only be listed once per genome — performing crossover is very likely to result in an invalid genome with >1 entry for at least one location.

>2) the size of new population is always reduced to 100, no matter what its initial (expected) value.

That’s correct. The idea here is to maintain a fixed population size for the GA. The whole deleting scheme is just to guarantee that the old population is purged from RAM, which likely isn’t necessary (Python does garbage collection), but I just wanted to make sure.

157. Don D says:

I am going to take my family on this road trip this summer if I can raise enough for gas and hotels! Please visit my Go Fund Me Page! https://www.gofundme.com/ultimateroadtrip1/

158. Hedgehog says:

This person obviously knows nothing about California. If I had to limit myself to two stops in our great state I’d choose the Yosemite and the Redwoods or some place along the coast. Also, I-5 is a terrible representation of California. No scenery. Perhaps do this again avoiding Interstate Highways and including some of the really scenic places. Does TripAdvisor have “Best PLACE to Visit” for each state?

159. engineeress says:

Thanks for sharing your code! I’ve mapped a road trip to all Texas lakes with a Reservoir Storage (acre-ft) > 200K.

• Randy Olson says:

That’s fantastic! Would you be willing to commit that map to this repository? https://github.com/rhiever/optimal-roadtrip-usa

I’ve been collecting optimized road trip maps there.

• engineeress says:

Sure! You should see an open pull request.

• engineeress says:

Sure. You should see an open pull request.

160. Rawn says:

If they were to try and drive through Seattle traffic it would add 2 years to the trip.

• Francis Hofer says:

That’s exactly what i was thinking when I saw this. It also gave me a good idea for road trips. I’m in outside sales and use an app that integrates with Waze (to avoid crazy Seattle traffic) to optimize routes between multiple points. I usually use to it route between my different real estate locations, but your comment kinda gave me the idea to use it on road trips like this one. It’s called Badger Maps, so I put the locations into the app and then it connects to Waze for routing. Too excited to plan my next trip now.

Also, I find all the debate over the best landmark in hilarious. As a native-San Franciscan, I’m glad that SF made the list, but why on Earth were the cable cars chosen? Not only are they the best landmark in California, they’re not even the coolest landmark in San Francisco. Why wasn’t Golden Gate Bridge chosen? That is much more iconic.

161. Benjamin Franzmayr says:

Hi Randy, this is pretty clever and I’d say it would be very useful to lots of people if it was easily customisable. I don’t mean by making people learn python but by putting this on a website and letting people enter waypoints themselves. Once that is running, you could add a list of landmarks to choose from and scenic drives (there are plenty of lists of these online) and more things like campsites, accommodation, festivals etc. If you joined up with a travel company, this could be applied usefully.
I’d like to visit the US one day and do a big road trip, and trip planning like this, especially if it was informed by popularity ratings of landmarks or routes etc, would be very useful.

162. George FriendlyRealtor Byrd says:

Could you plot a route that goes approximately through the geographic center of each state? That would be the best way to truly “see” each state. It might be too many nodes, but you could combine the geographic center map with the 47 most populous cities with the 50 national parks/monuments maps for a truly comprehensive tour of this diverse country!

163. Tyler Perry says:

Why the I-5 Corridor? Highway 1 and 101 are much better options.

164. humblecoder says:

Excellent article. I would love to see the process of selecting landmarks automised, and optimised for enjoyment (highly subjective, I know). You could perhaps parse tweets to see what people thinks of various landmarks and use that information to build a “best landmarks in each state” list. If that worked, you could let people personalise it by adding rules like “I hate museums” or “I love 18th century history”. I love problems like these.

165. DianaCox says:

OMG – I’m plotting out a major RV trip from San Jose to Portland to Banff AB to Glacier to Yellowstone to Crazy Horse/Mt. Rushmore to Santa Fe (where we have friends) to Carlsbad Caverns to LA and back up the CA coast for my husband and me. I had saved this map, and came back to it, looking for SOMETHING to recommend seeing on the Portland to Spokane part of the trip which looks pretty long and desolate – and the Hanford site was the WA “landmark”?? That’s just crazy talk – and I’m a scientist! A side trip to Mt. St. Helens, maybe, but a decrepit nuclear power plant? I’d feel safer at the volcano, too.

166. DianaCox says:

As a new RVers, with an older and somewhat underpowered RV towing a Jeep Liberty, here is another challenge for you. We are currently trying to plan a trip (San Jose, Portland, Banff/Jasper, Glacier, Yellowstone, Little Bighorn, Crazy Horse/Mt. Rushmore, Santa Fe, Carlsbad, Los Angeles, San Jose) for this summer, but I would like to include in the calculations the least amount of grades (ahahaha, while going through the Rockies), both the least steep (scary in both up and down grades) and least amount of total climbs (hard on the engine and transmission).

There is a book that has recommendations for this, but I don’t have it yet: http://www.mountaindirectory.com/ – and I don’t believe it has a map planning counterpart.

167. Rocky says:

“The trip would only make stops at National Natural Landmarks, National Historic Sites, National Parks, or National Monuments.” I guess this would make it a camping trip.

168. MJ Mamaghani says:

Great stuff. Inspiring Waldo article as well. Thanks!

169. Saif Ahmed says:

Optimal for whom?
They need a coloured person variation that includes added constraints against places where you’d be treated like a criminal by default (Arizona: Papers Please! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arizona_SB_1070) places where people can randomly shoot you for being suspicious/dark (Florida, others: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stand-your-ground_law).

170. Jeffrey Jarrett Mayes says:

Randy, why not make the trip more about data and less about Tracy’s opinion. While overall the list is good, it’s still very subjective.

For example, the Cape May Historic District is on the registry of historic places. While the registry is maintained by the NPS, it is NOT a NPS unit. The registry of historic places is a tool the NPS uses to identify places worth preserving. That preservation work is then hopefully performed by public and private partnerships on the local level, not the NPS.

By allowing places on the registry, the map becomes very subjective. Why not add in Bureau of Reclamation Historic Dams while we are at it.

Why not base the stops strictly on NPS units and on actual NPS attendance records? Then people would not be able to question about things like the Hanford site (while it has a rich history, is not a registered historic landmark or part of the NPS), or places like Cape May Historic District.

I think you would find a very different map that is more about data and less about opinion.

Hanford is a National Historic Landmark, so it qualifies.

I suggested:

171. Craig Thom says:

It appears that you are treating the driving part of the trip as just getting from one site to another.

I’ve taken multiple road trips through forty-nine states (I flew to Hawaii) and ten Canadian provinces, and the key is to enjoy being where you are the whole trip, not just while making a stop at an attraction. You’re trip has drives of several hours, and if you spend that time just thinking about what time you’ll get to the next stop you won’t be having fun.

What’s worked best for me is to do a lot of research and have a general idea of where I’m going but to only make hard plans at places like big national parks and car ferries where reservations are required. I then have plenty of time to look around and see what it’s like where I actually am. I still cover a lot of ground, but I’m not locked into a rigid schedule, so if road construction or bad weather or a ferry canceled due to ice in the harbor (this happened to me in Labrador) causes problems, my trip won’t be ruined.

I don’t always get to where I thought I would, but I often see things I didn’t know about, and I enjoy the whole drive.

And Interstate highways are my least favorite way to travel. I’ll do it through cities due to the time it takes to avoid them, and I’ll do it through western states, because it doesn’t make much difference, but it’s a mind-numbing way to travel in the East.

I recommend sticking to the U.S. highways. (US30 across Iowa is nice.) Good roads, smaller towns, better food, more scenic.

172. Monkfishy says:

Now that I live in Mississippi, I’ve got to throw my 2¢ in for that route, too. I’m sure I’ll piss off a lot of Mississippians, but there’s absolutely nothing worth seeing on I-55 through Jackson, except bad traffic and worse roads. At the very least, the route should detour west to Clinton on I-20, and follow the Natchez Trace the rest of the way to Memphis. The Natchez Trace itself is one of the best landmarks to see in the state of Mississippi, and it’s a National park. Another thing – if you’re not going to go out of your way to see the Puget Sound area in Washington, you’re definitely not going to waste your time driving over to the Vicksburg Military Park. It would be a much better trip to continue on I-10 from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, then take 61 up to Natchez, which is one of the most scenic and historic sites in Mississippi, with riverboats, antebellum mansions, etc. Then you can drive the Trace all the way from end-to-end. You miss most of the rest of Mississippi that way, which is just fine.

173. Stephen1818 says:

You could not have picked a worse route through Colorado, New Mexico and Washington. Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods are all there is to see on your route. A route that mostly takes you across wide open plains away from the mountains? Cutting down through Grand Junction and Colorado Nat. Monument to Ouray, Silverton, Durango over to Pagosa Springs to Chama, NM, Taos, NM, Santa Fe, NM, Albuquerque to Socorro then Ruidoso and down to Carlsbad is a million times more interesting. As for Washington State, WTF? Were you again trying to find the least interesting parts of the state? I think you literally picked the most boring routes across WA, CO and NM. Also, why you don’t stay near the coast in Oregon and N. California is also a big puzzle. Instead of using computers you really need to get out and drive all these routs like many of us have.

174. cjmcqueen says:

This got shared a lot. Had to back track through a few sites to find the original article. Nicely done. Here’s my version of the map: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zm1q7WtgtYew.kqPpDS5DMuF8

175. Mike says:

Hey, I understand computers don’t like scenery or the outdoors, but you state in your blog that this isn’t for city-slickers because there’s a lot of “outdoorsy” places on here. I just wanted to bring to your attention the places you missed with your algorithm, which aren’t even far off the roads you have, but could be reached by adding an extra day or two here and there: Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Zion NP, most of western Montana, northern Minnesota, da UP, Big Bend NP, San Juan’s in CO, almost all of ID’s rockies, Northern Cascades NP, Yosemite NP, ALL of the cascades from Washington to California, Olympic NP, Sequoia NP, Kings Canyon NP, Death Valley NP… Pretty incomprehensive IMHO, the list goes on. This list is not for outdoorsy people or people who like scenery on long drives.

I mean you missed all of southern UT… AND your computer misses spots which are like 20 miles away from the route in some cases like in Death Valley, and you could take a road that isn’t a highway, and drive through some super scenic areas… I hope this wasn’t your thesis or something.

edit: Never rely on computers or people who have never been on a roadtrip to come up with an “ideal” roadtrip. Sorry if I sound harsh but you’re a scientist of some kind right? You should be used to criticism.

176. Toxoplasmosis says:

Like ever other cranky fault-finder, I must INSIST that at least one of your selected locations is WRONG, although I’m ignoring the efficiency of the Bos-Wash leg. Rather than visiting the New Castle Historic District in New Castle, DE, which violates the “Each stop would be at a National Natural Landmark, National Historic Site, National Park, or National Monument” rule, one should visit Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge outside of Smyrna, DE, regardless of the hour it adds to the trip. It’s weird that the map published by Tracy Staedter at discovery.com seems to show the route including MD’s Chesapeake Bay Bridge, while yours here doesn’t. Bombay Hook would add less time to the Chesapeake Bay route, and more time to your Susquehanna river route.

177. Emily says:

The Alamo is in San Antonio, TX, not Houston.

178. bryweb says:

• Randy Olson says:

Thanks for pinging me! I’ll contact them to see about linking to the original source. 🙂

179. Steve Touw says:

Randal – this is great. You inspired me to write a similar blog with a twist. Check it out: https://theresnoiindata.wordpress.com/2015/04/30/the-algorithmically-perfect-college-football-weekend/

• Randy Olson says:

Awesome – thank you for sharing this Steve!

180. karinagw says:

In (the major city map) Arizona, had you gone just a little further along 40, you could have hit Winslow…home of the “girl my lord in a flat bed Ford” and then taken 87 South where it would have re-hooked up with your route. Would have added maybe an hour and it’s a pretty cool little town with an homage to the song and a HUGE Rte 66 graphic smack dab in the middle of the town.

181. 2JZ_NOS says:

No Shenandoah route through VA? Skyline Drive and even George Washington National are pretty good drives.

182. John Balling says:

Along with Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse is fantastic. Mt. Rushmore was interesting and a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. Crazy Horse was by far more interesting and educational. We visited both sites on the same day and it was also Native American Day, or some ‘holiday’ dedicate to the American Indians. Great day. For those unaware of “Crazy Horse”, it is the American Indian version of Mt. Rushmore (and only a few miles away), unfinished as of this date, but without cost to American taxpayers. Truly a “Must Visit Place”.

183. Margie Black Cassan says:

Pikes Peak is a national forest, under the Department of Agriculture. Disqualified. Oh, wait, it’s an historical landmark.

But the Statue of Liberty is in New Jersey, not New York, and anyway, good luck driving there!

Might I suggest an overlooked, but technological marvel, the Bell Laboratories Building? It’s just north of the Holland Tunnel, which itself is a National Historic Landmark. Drive by Rockefeller Center and Central Park to add two more NHLs.

If one can use ANY “national” site, then your map can be tweaked and shortened.

I like Mark Twain, but miles can be saved by stopping in Mystic (Groton) instead.

Bretton Woods, NH? I can’t find a citation for any historic sites.

Take I-20 across Texas to Dallas, then hit Oklahoma.

Harpers Ferry in West Virginia might save some mileage (and you can add the Appalachian Trail as a bonus!)
If you keep the current site in West Virginia, you can save some miles via Arlington, VA. (I-66/I-81)

North Carolina? Greensboro.

Northern Florida? Jacksonville.

Mileage can be reduced by heading straight to Savannah, GA.

Southern Illinois? Cahokia Mounds.

Indiana? Lincoln Boyhood NM. And I-64 to Cahokia and St. Louis.

Kentucky? Louisville.

Nebraska? Nebraska City. (Then you can take I-90 (yawn) across to the Badlands, and skip Mount Rushmore.)

North Dakota? Theodore Roosevelt NP, then I-94/90 across Montana, via Butte.

You can save some miles by taking I-95 out of DC to Fort McHenry in Baltimore, MD, then Philadelphia and New Castle, DE via I-95, and continue on that route to Edison NHP in West Orange, NJ.

Can the “Michigan problem” be solved by a trip to the Upper Peninsula, and a route through southern Ohio? Otherwise, River Raisin NBP, in Monroe, MI.

Next challenge? All “national” sites in New York City, by subway and foot. The Transit directions do include walking, so the API shouldn’t be too difficult to manipulate.

• Liberty is in NJ says:

Could replace the Statue of Liberty with Ellis Island (part of the same site) and then technically you could drive to it, across the service bridge. You have to get NPS permission of course.

185. HeyIknowthatguy says:

What would it take for you to calculate visiting every county in the USA.

186. the dragon says:

Randy, I want a map that optimizes traveling every interstate roadway, in it’s entirety. Any suggestions?

• Randy Olson says:

As a first try, I would put together a list of all the interstate roadways — either the names or geolocations of somewhere on the roadway if Google Maps doesn’t work well with the names. Then you can have this algorithm try to optimize the route to hit all of those points.

187. Clara McAlhany says:

Very interesting. I wonder why you chose the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in FL rather than the space center at Cape Kennedy. Much more interesting to visit.

188. geekazine says:

Taliesin, WI? I think you have to do a little more research of the town you want people to visit. Might as well just head to Madison and experience one of the top 10 cities in the US…

189. Stuart Logan says:

Does the Bonus roadtip skip over North Dakota for a reason?

190. Loyde Yates says:

I would like to see a trip including all of “America’s Byways” and “All-Amercan Roads!” That alone would be worth doing!

191. Loyde Yates says:

If you are able to put such a trip together, please let me know. I’ll be one of your first to try it out, and report back. Thanks!

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193. Probey 76227 says:

So why no stop in north Dakota?

194. AW says:

Sorry but Dr. Olson needs to actually travel and feel, find, and learn for himself what constitutes a optimal road trip. Merely connecting dots in the most expedient way is far from optimal, more like “hurry up and get it done” which leaves most of us wanting. Dr. Olson, it is actually the journey that makes a great road trip not the so called “points of interest” in between.

• Randy Olson says:

Your philosophy may be true for some people, but others may only be interested in the stops.

195. BELA says:

196. George says:

You’re literally driving right past Silicon Valley without stopping. You’re also bypassing the Space Shuttle Endeavour in LA, the Space Shuttle Enterprise at the Intrepid Sea/Air & Space Museum, and the Rose/Hayden Planetarium/Museum of Natural History in NY. Not to mention the Liberty Science Center across the river in NJ. I’d also angle south to hit Ohio, home of the Wright Brothers, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, the US Air Force museum & NASA’s Glenn research facility.

• Liberty is in NJ says:

If they stopped at Liberty Science Center they’d actually get to see the Statue of Liberty just 1,200 feet across a channel instead of peering at a dot on the horizon from two miles away on the tip of Manhattan.

197. Amber says:

Nice, and go Branson, MO! (That’s where I’m from and I love to see it as a destination.) I’ve done many US road trips and I’ve designed a free PDF road trip planner for the States for anyone interested. You can get it at http://www.ordinaryescapades.com/resources/. Enjoy!

198. Arthur Wielga says:

Seriously…. the “Ultimate American Road Trip” ?!? Were public funds used to pay for the time to make this? The main problem with researchers today is that they smugly think that their tinkering will make “society” better. Meanwhile, the output is flawed and will only work for a narrow and extremely specific group of people. Please get out of the damned lab and do some more actual living to realize that a computer algorithm is NEVER the answer, but merely a suggestion and that the variables that make us human are the very reasons that computers should NEVER replace humans as decision-makers. I would hate to see what your algorithms would do to socialized medicine where older people are concerned. BTW… have you ever read Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”??? PLEASE re-read it and realize that computer algorithms and a society devoid of human common sense are exactly what make THAT world the terrible place it is.

• Glenn Ray says:

Chill. If you read the opening paragraphs you’ll see that this was prompted by a reporter with Discovery News. Don’t worry: your taxes were not used for this. However, you’d be surprised at how beneficial algorithms like this are for society. I once worked for Waste Management as a contractor and got to see how they used computer routing like this to save time and fuel for their collection runs. Most national trucking companies use software like this to upload route information to their drivers in real-time.

199. Ti Kauth says:

This map is not optimized just by changing a couple of way points I took off 107 miles.
Bryce canyon national park to pikes peak.
Fort Union to Yellowstone to Craters of the moon to Glacier National Park

200. Ti Kauth says:

You save a lot of backtracking and 7 miles by switching lost world caverns and wright brothers museum

201. Ti Kauth says:

One of your stops is wrong according to your rules for stops. Ashfall Fossil Beds is a Nebraska State Park, not a national park. If you want the national park, you had to go to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument which just happens to be on the opposite end of the state in the Nebraska pan handle.
http://ashfall.unl.edu/
http://www.nps.gov/agfo/index.htm

• Glenn Ray says:

But Ashfall Fossil Beds is a National Natural Landmark (2006), so that meets his second criteria.

202. Glenn Ray says:

Admittedly I’m impressed with the algorithm in general, but there is a huge flaw in the trip through Texas. The trip could go from Carlsbad Caverns to Palo Duro Canyon State Park (a National Natural Landmark, 1976) then on to Chickasaw NRA. That would cut out 238 miles in driving.

203. Hm. I think Alaska should be on it. You can take the Alaska Marine Highway out of Bellingham,WA and go to Juneau, AK and back. Although you’d pass through Canadian waters you’d always be on the US highway system. The Alaska Marine Highway is funded as part of the US highway system. It’s an easy addition to the trip.

204. Kathleen Olesinski says:

Given that Cleveland is home to one of the top ten most visited National Parks in the country and the author claims it is only a necessary stopping point, there is no way this can be factually accurate.

205. Dave says:

To skip Western Montana, Butte, Bozeman, etc. is just wacked! Why would anyone drive the desolate northern route through Montana? Butte’s rich mining history, museum’s, historic buildings and culture is a destination all in it’s own. The surrounding recreation is second to none. The best blue ribbon fishing rivers in the world. Whoever wrote this blog is not in touch with what people want. You should be ashamed to publish something like this without research!!!

Branson, Missouri? Really? Not Kansas City, home of the world’s best bar-b-que and the Royals, or St. Louis, with the Arch and amazing neighborhoods? Branson.

207. Manou Crazmouzieuy says:

That is trully amazing!!!
I’m a travel maniac and I’ve been doing roadtrips around and that is absolutely brilliant and so easy to read and understand !
Well done, I would absolutely love a South America version which is my next project ! (If I don’t just follow this really exciting US one…)and if you are interested by some real life testing of one of your project, I would be happy to give some feedbacks !

208. @stales says:

This is fantastic! I need to set aside some time to head out on this road trip. Thanks for doing all the hard work!

209. Patrick Danger Gump says:

Anybody notice that for Oregon, this map completely skips Crater Lake? I feel as though the west coast could use more love.

• Randy Olson says:

Crater Lake would indeed be another awesome stop in Oregon.

210. RioRita says:

I don’t see a stop in West Virginia…?

• Randy Olson says:

For the main trip there is. I explained why there wasn’t a stop in WV for the city trip – there was no top city on TripAdvisor there.

211. Chelsea Jennings says:

My friend and I are definitely thinking about doing this, but are wondering about how much money we should budget. Any suggestions Mr. Randal?

• Randy Olson says:

That all depends on how you travel are you comfortable camping regularly to save money or do you want to stay in hotels, do you want to eat cheap food that you made yourself or dine out, etc.? Having budgeted it out for myself, food and lodging were among the biggest expenses and gas wasn’t too bad if I remember right.

• CocktailTravellers.com says:

Hi Chelsea, did you end up doing the trip? Just wondering if you have an idea on costings etc, as I’m also looking at doing it, any help would be appreciated!

212. James Campbell says:

Is the code for this available anywhere? (Github etc.) it would be really cool to mess around and potentially plan my own route!

213. MESnAround says:

Thanks a bunch for doing this! This has been a great way for me introduce myself to some python as I’m mostly a self-taught programmer but interested in scientific computing concepts. I plan on reworking this a bit to add fixed end points to the journey rather than the full loop.

214. Monti da Geocacher says:

215. Rachel Thompson says:

I Rv all over the country. One of the best stops was a privet owned bicycle museum in Ohio. It’s on the east side near PA boarder half way between north and south, I forget the name but it was so cool. Some of the best stuff is off the main lines and privet owned. Like the Ice Cave near El Moro NM, or the worlds best motorcycle museum in Birmingham AL. America is like a box of chocolates…

216. dperkins001 says:

All that work and you don’t add Niagara Falls to the list? Seriously? The path takes you less than 30 minutes from there…

217. Joan Stone says:

I cannot conceive why you would drive I-5 through northern California when you could take Highway 1 along the spectacular coastline and through the Redwoods. The same goes for many other routes on this map. Have you actually done driving trips around the USA?

218. Grant Jacobs says:

It’d be interesting to see a variant of this suitable for long-distance cycle touring, that takes quieter roads, and cycle paths/routes where they are available. Google maps has cycle routes, too, so perhaps this might be an interesting thing to try?

• Grant Jacobs says:

Just saw you released the code – if I can find time, I may have a crack at it myself.

219. Veridiana Cunha says:

Man, this is AWESOME!!! Congratulations

220. Lucas Alexandre says:

Awesome! Really enjoyned the free code to customize! God Job! Congratulations!

221. Pam Jones says:

As for West Virginia–travelers might want to add to your trip a few things worth seeing: for history buffs–Harpers Ferry National Historic Park; for an architectural wonder-New River Gorge Bridge National Park (also bungee jumping & white water rafting); if you like old steam locomotives, there is one that you can ride up to the top of Bald Knob at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park.
I hope to follow your road trip when my husband & I retire. Thanks for the work, Randall Olson!

222. jeffinity1 says:

If there were an app that allowed you to input your own personal favorite destinations, that would be one thing. This is one researcher’s own personal list and, by the comments and my own estimation, not very appealing to most people. Our family took a 7-month trip around the country in 2001, homeschooling our kids as we went. While our maps may have looked similar, our idea of what was worth visiting was very different than this researcher.

223. SJ Dixon says:

Randy,
Has anyone approached you about documenting this trip? I’d love to use this plan for my own trip. I think it’d be cool to document it and make some money with a youtube channel of it. Would you mind contributing or going along? If no, then in what way could i reference you?
Thanks!
SJ Dix

224. mikelorrey says:

Great work. Only thing I would add to it is to eschew interstate highways whenever possible in favor of roads that are rated high in scenic value and/or fun to drive. Save the interstates for those areas where there are no scenic or fun roads.
As for the Flint MI vs Vermont, that just tells you that trip advisor is junk data.

225. Luke H Thornton says:

My only complaint is the optimization allowed interstate travel. I’d love to see a road trip that completely forbid setting foot on an interstate unless it was required to get across a major obstacle like the Mississippi river.

226. Mike Dennis says:

Why is North Dakota not included in your map?

227. Cammosutra says:

@gabrielmarcus:disqusWhile I am inclined to agree and would have substituted Mt. St Helens (or even the Boeing plant building) for Hanford, it should be noted there is a large part of Hanford that is for all practical purposes a wilderness area and wildlife refuge. And I am pretty sure they have a museum related to developing the bomb there too. Top landmark in WA state? Heck no! But as a National Historic Site, it meets their criteria.

228. Ken S. says:

I just completed this journey and I have absolutely NO complaints! The only two landmarks I couldn’t find were Mark Twain’s house and museum in CT and Craters of the Moon in Idaho. I used this map as a guide but I also improvised and stopped whenever I saw something that caught my eye. If you’d like to see the pics I took along the way and the reason I went, click here -> http://bit.ly/1NL61Gg
Thanks Randy!

229. Zoe roth says:

I’m planning on doing the first trip with my friend. But how much would the whole thing cost? (Bedding, food, gas, ect…)

• CocktailTravellers.com says:

Hi Zoe, did you ever complete the trip? Did you keep a record of costs etc, I would love to hear your feedback!

that python script was just what i was looking for when visiting tech companies in silicon valley – i had to work out each one using lat/long and simultaneous equations – it worked but was far more crude than this! Excellent work!

231. Hello, What would you sujest for Horse drawn wagon route? I’m not looking for big cities but smaller towns and safe roads, maybe trails.

232. peggy Cobain says:

As a Washingtonian, I was both insulted and saddened by your article, Hanford is a dump, period. Washington state is beautiful, with World Heritage Sites, like the Olympic National Forest, or Mt. Rainer, Grand Coulee dam, the list is endless. With stars such as Bing Crosby, Hendrix, and COUSIN Kurt Cobain from Washington and the EMP. In every state you choose a true landmark of interest. Washington got a dump site with a fence around it.
All I can say is we do like that you not show how truly blessed we are to live here, because y’all can stay where you are, and quit moving here, but next time you find yourself in the Pacific Northwest just keep on driving nothing here for the tasteless to see or appreciate.
Used to be a huge fan….

233. John Bennett says:

I see a few flaws, three must see places that the route just passes by:
1. Sequoia National Park in Kern County, CA
2. Wisconsin Dells, specifically an Upper Dells boat tour
3. Colonial Williamsburg, VA

234. Howard Luther Gilson IV says:

Stupid, stupid. Whoever made this has either never been on a true road trip, or is so dull, I would rather bypass watching paint dry and wait for it to peel.
You don’t just throw a trip like this into an algorithm and let math guide you. It takes months of prep finding out what roads to drive on and which sites to see. It takes takes dozens permutations and re-alignments to find a trip that YOU want to take, not one that a computer recommends. Sitting in a car and finding the fastest way to get to the next stop is not a road trip, it’s a chore. Yes, you of course need have a good plan in order to see what you want to see, but you need to enjoy the experiences between those sites and enjoy the trip in total.
If you really want to say that you saw something in every state in a little time as possible, then yes, here’s your trip, but anyone who has a shred of adventure knows better. They miss some of the greatest driving roads in the country. Yes, interstates are fast and convenient, but you want to stay off them when you can or you’ll go nuts on a trip this long. Route 1 as stated below is one of them. The Million Dollar Highway is another, and instead they chose to stay on I-25 through the plains of Colorado?! This trip even bypasses the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park even though It passes right by it! Also, if you are going to see something in Nebraska, why there? Western Nebraska is full of fun roadside oddities, geological formations, and historical sites from the Oregon trail and this trip skips over all of them! It doesn’t even come close to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee or North Carolina, and chooses I-5 to see Oregon? It’s ridiculous.
This road trip is about efficiency, but road trip are about emotion. The emotions you feel when you visit somewhere new, the anticipation of a place you’ve wanted to see since you were a child, and the emotion you feel afterwards when looking back on a trip like this. And that’s the problem with an algorithm as a way to plan road trips, emotion doesn’t follow logic. Road trips are inherently illogical. There is no reason to drive for thousands of miles in a car that won’t break 80 mph. But that’s the point, it isn’t about efficiency.

• Tom says:

You clearly haven’t read the article properly at all – efficiency is exactly what the author claimed the algorithm would provide. At no point did the author claim that the algorithm would provide the “best” road trip as far as “emotional enjoyment” is concerned. He simply claimed it was an attempt to find the optimal (i.e. most efficient) route between pre-chosen destinations.

“It takes takes dozens permutations and re-alignments to find a trip that YOU want to take, not one that a computer recommends.”

Right, but that’s not what the author claimed the algorithm could do. If he’d claimed it could take pre-assigned “enjoyment rankings” of all possible destinations in the U.S, *then* calculate the optimal set of destinations to maximise enjoyment *and* calculate the optimal route to get around them all, *then* you might be justified in criticising the results based on whether you agree/disagree from an “emotional” point of view. Until then, recognise that the algorithm is useful for a specific set of requirements and keep your accusations of “fraud” to yourself.

235. EK says:

Thanks for sharing your project. An interesting byproduct is the strong evidence supporting the maxim, “No good deed goes unpunished.” It’s nice that you generously offer your source code so people have the option of creating their own list of interesting places instead of whining about yours.

236. jseigfreid says:

Articles like this create a great point of discussion. Glad to see this done. One really sad point, Microsoft Streets and Trips, no longer available, turns out an optimal and customizable solution in just a couple minutes once all the points are put into the Route Planner function. Makes it fun to put the points mentioned in the comments on the map and see the new driving solutions. Shame on Microsoft for discontinuing such a great piece of software.

237. Idgaf says:

Wilmington and New Castle DE are the shittiest parts of the entire state. Sounds like a good place to stop.

238. Leonardo Gonçalves de Souza says:

Do you know how long it’d take that popular cities trip? Just the car trip, you know? Thanks!

239. Randy Warner says:

How did you make the map with so many legs? I thought Google maps has a restriction? Can you share? Thanks!

240. William Codere says:

100 miles from Zion National Park and u didn’t stop. Very sad

241. Soren says:

Does anyone know what the longest stretch is on the national park map is? I want to get a couple of friends together and do this before college, but I also want to plan stops. I would cap a day’s drive at 11 hours.

242. Anthony says:

Great job!

Many of us would greatly appreciate your talents on a similar project.

My bucket list journey is a crossing of the US from coadt to coast…. On foot! There are many crossers who have made the trip and/or are planning it.

What would be the best and quickest route? Needs to take into account safety, length, terrain, even weather (east to west in fall, west to east in spring?).

Any input would be appreciated.

243. Mike says:

I’m a 1990 Comp Sci grad so a little dated. I enjoyed the article and discussion on the “traveling salesman problem” as that was also studied when I was in school. In the article it says “After less than a minute, the genetic algorithm reached a near-perfect solution” … so how would it be known the solution is “near perfect”? It seems to me all that can be said is it is better than the others tried previously. The whole problem would have the be brute forced (which is still impossible as the article points out) and then the “near perfect” compared to the actual best result. Then again, “near perfect” leaves plenty of wiggle room in any case.

• Randy Olson says:

I suppose it’s right to say that it’s not provably “near perfect,” but we can assume that it’s better than a large portion of the solutions out there.

• Mike says:

I’m not sure you can even say “better than a large portion of the solutions out there”. It ran for one minute but brute force takes a gazillion years. So in fact, an infinitesimally small percentage of solutions were tried. Now I suppose the algorithm zeroing in on “near perfect” is judged by how much better the current solution is to the previous. When improvement approaches zero, or is zero or negative for many many iterations it can be inferred there probably aren’t any better solutions out there.

This is awful. I see the route going straight up the 5 through most of California and all of Oregon. For the perfect road trip you have to take the coast up NorCal and all the way through Oregon. Taking the 5 is as wrongheaded as it gets.

245. Liberty is in NJ says:

Sorry the NY site is wrong. The Statue of Liberty is IN New Jersey and you can’t drive to the island. You can drive into NYC and try to see the statue from two miles away or you can stop at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, NJ and look across the 1,200 foot water expanse to the island.
Adjust your route to include NYC and see many sites, including Federal Hall National Memorial, site of the first USA capital under the Constitution.

246. lockewasright says:

If you don’t hit Kansas City at meal time in both directions, you’ve made a serious miscalculation.

247. Jay says:

I take issue with the only “back-track” I see on the map, to Kitty Hawk/Manteo NC, in the Outer Banks of NC. While certainly important, you are adding a phenomenal amount of drive time for the Wright Brother is lieu of potential stops in Greensboro (civil rights museum), or Winston-Salem (Old Salem, est 1750s), or even Durham, NC (Duke). Richmond to Manteo and back = 7 hour round trip. No thanks.

248. Corey Kloos says:

spells out Delaware rather than look up abbreviation.

249. Greg Smith says:

Based on my own knowledge of what is worth seeing in the states I am familiar with, I think this proves that this the algorithm by itself would be an awful way to plan out an actual trip. Talking with people that have interests similar to yours and experiences in each state in order to select more worthwhile locations, and applying a filter of best times of year (and times to avoid) for different locations would provide for better inputs for the road trip algorithm.

250. Paul says:

You missed Devil’s Lake Wisconsin by a few miles, by far the most interesting thing in the state and area you are driving past. Gonna have to say Taliesin is a worthless stop.

251. This route completely ignores Jolly Jim the Mystery Tree. You should be ashamed of yourself.

252. Maksym Fishman says:

For example:

all_waypoints = [“Naqshi Rostam, Fars, Iran”,
“Bisotun World Heritage Site, Bisotun, Kermanshah, Iran”]

Error with finding the route between Naqshi Rostam, Fars, Iran and Azadi Square, Shiraz, Fars, Iran.

But at the same time Google map can discover this waypoints.

Many thanks.

253. Beth Perry says:

Hanford site in Washington? Lifelong washington resident and I never knew this is a tourist thing. Might I suggest Mt St. Helens.

254. Don’t forget to travel Route 66!!!

255. Erin McIntosh says:

Thank you ! 🙂

256. Matt says:

During your epic road trip across the U.S. to see every natural park/ site. How much money did you approximately spend or would have spent?

257. Marcelo Fonseca says:

How much money did you spend?

258. Michael Hallden-Abberton says:

Wow. Nice job! I’m a scientist too, and I can spot a massive amount of work when I see it. Retired now, and contemplating something like this myself. Thanks for doing the “leg work”!

259. Lyveno says:

Being from Nebraska, I take issue with the cornfields comment. Growing up in the Omaha area, I can say that there is the false belief that the state is nothing but cornfields. There are beautiful rock formations in the western part of the state, like Chimney rock. I can’t believe they put the route through South Sioux City and Sioux City, IA…are you kidding me? I used to live there–there’s nothing to see there. How about going through Lincoln for the Capitol building, which is gorgeous, or something along the Oregon Trail? I’ve been to the Alamo and I was unimpressed, and neither was my husband. Taking a road trip is definitely on my bucket list, but isn’t the point to take your time and enjoy the trip that interests you rather than having someone else plan it for you?

260. edward meyer says:

Wow,

261. Rodrigo José says:

Does anyone know the amount of fuel spent on this trips?

262. Dan Diego says:

I like it! The work you put into seeing cool stuff in the US is admirable.

But in the end, the people you meet along the way–and the quiet times in the morning, the afternoon and the evening–will be what you remember most fondly.

263. Chris Harle says:

Since you are going through Southern Oregon, make sure you add Crater Lake to the stops. It’s the Deepest lake in the US, and is known for its clarity. It has no rivers in or out, and is replenished only by melting snows and rains. The water-filled caldera is the remains of Mt. Mazama.

264. MaryAnn says:

My husband just finished your ‘Optimal Road Trip’, by motorcycle, in 29 days! We live in Florida and he’s a 70 year old retired engineer . When he retired 4 years ago he completed a US Four Corner Trip(11,500 miles) in 18 days. I see that Tracy Staedter from Discovery News proposed this interesting idea to you: 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.? My hubby & I thank you very much for your ‘big part’ in his most recent motorcycle road trip. MaryAnn

• CocktailTravellers.com says:

Hi MaryAnn, my husband and I are looking at doing this trip also, did he take note of where he stopped and how long he spent in various locations? I would love to hear more!

265. Jakub Waller says:

From what I’ve understood Google doesn’t really optimise routes, because I am the one who chooses the order of the cities, Google only calculates optimal routes between those cities. Why is it then limited to 10?

• Randy Olson says:

Google still has to find the ideal route by road between the specified locations, and there are many possible ways to drive between two specified locations. Thus I’d imagine they want to limit how much routing they do in one request.

• Jakub Waller says:

So the limit is not because of the traveling salesman problem, but more because of their slow implementation of an A* algorithm (I suppose they use this one), which is responsible for calculating optimal routes between the specified locations?

Because what you’ve written here “This complication is why Google Map’s route optimization service only optimizes routes of up 10 waypoints” doesn’t really make much sense to me, or is there such a tool, where you can only insert locations and Google would do the optimisation such as the one for the traveling salesman problem?

Oh and btw thank you so much for such an interesting article!

266. Marshall Gatten says:

I’ve long been interested in finding the fastest way to drive to all 48 contiguous states – no need to get into a city or see a landmark. Just the fastest route that crosses the stateline into all 48 even if it’s just a foot across the stateline. This is a (much) harder problem, I think, but would also result in a much shorter trip. The reason I’m interested in it is to try to make a ham radio radio contacts fro all 48 in the shortest time possible. If there’s a route that I can conceivably cover in less than a week, I’d like to make that attempt. Have you seen any attempts at a solution for that kind of problem?

267. Ed Brumley says:

I’m surprised your route goes right “passed” the town of Vincennes Indiana, Home of the George Rogers Clark National Park, (Revolutionary War Hero who played a pivotal role in the development our our country) Grouseland – Home of William Henry Harrison (our 9th President of the US), hometown of comedian Red Skelton, Vincennes was also the capital of the Northwest Territory before Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota became states. Vincennes University, the oldest and first college in the state of Indiana and Aberham Lincoln crossed into Illinois from Indiana here in Vincennes for the first time in 1820.

268. Pego Rice says:

Love these maps. I see you don’t have a built in option for adding Canada and Alaska, nor the fabulous scenic drives of each state. They’re time consuming and occasionally limited by vehicle length, but if you’re driving to see the beauty and history of the country, they’re kinda the point of the drive

269. Lisa Fitchpatrick says:

Hey make your own map…this was his choices. Wow poeple he is not holding anyone hostage making you stop where he suggested. It was a SUGGESTION. People are so negitive. Relax and breathe you have choices and free will.

270. caleb says:

A lot of the wording in this article, and in subsequent press around it inappropriately uses the language of optimality. In the press, this may be forgivable, but – as you allude to the intractibility of the travelling salesman problem yourself, and then passingly mention that it’s not the “absolute shortest path” (which is to say *not* the optimal path) – you are guilty of intentionally misleading your audience.

I clicked through to an article which made the astonishing claim that you had found the *shortest* path – and thus solved the very computationally expensive travelling salesman problem for a nontrivial set of destinations. This was a promise of a new and groundbreaking result. What I found was that you have misled the journalists with your use of inappropriate language (your obscured caveat notwithstanding) – presumably to get publicity.

You are intellectually dishonest. I am disappointed.

• Randy Olson says:

Hi Caleb! I think I’ve been abundantly clear in all of my interviews and write-ups that evolutionary algorithms are not guaranteed to find the optimal route. However, I have said time and again that evolutionary algorithms will find a *good* route, which I’ve repeatedly shown in my blog posts. Thus, I call the road trips generated by my evolutionary algorithm “optimized.” I think that’s a fair term to apply to them: they’re not *optimal*, but they’ve had an optimization process applied to them.

In any case, if you believe the work of other scientists who have worked on TSP ( http://www.math.uwaterloo.ca/tsp/usa50/index.html ), the route that my evolutionary algorithm discovered is only 23 miles off of the proven optimal path. In practical terms: not bad!

• caleb says:

“good” is neither “optimal”, nor “shortest” – both of which words you also used. I stand by my judgement of your intent in using those words. Clearly you are not intending accuracy, so much as appeal. I do not particularly blame you, but the use of those words was intentional, and inaccurate. To this mathematician, they were also the difference between an ignored headline, and a disappointing lie.

I think, if you are honest, you will admit that you were not ignorant of the meaning of those words when you chose to include them – preferring sensation over accuracy.

• Randy Olson says:

Yes, I used the words “optimal” and “shortest” in reference to the problem that I’m looking to solve. Yet when I discuss evolutionary algorithms, I clearly state that it’s not guaranteed to find said “optimal” or “shortest” route, but it’s a reasonable alternative to the impossible task of exhaustively enumerating all possible trips. Please try reading the post again; I think you’ll find that I was quite careful with my wording.

• caleb says:

I acknowledge what you say without altering my position. If you do not see my point, then I will not belabour it further. It’s a fun application of useful tools. I like that you are helping to popularize an interesting approach to statistical modelling.

• caleb says:

It’s the difference between math and engineering, I suppose. As I say, I don’t blame you.

Incidentally, I have not read any of the contextual writing you mention. This is the first article I have read of yours, and I only sought it after reading some (similarily inaccurate) press it generated.

• caleb says:

no offense intended – but you did choose the words “shortest” and “optimal” – presumably with full knowledge of what those words mean. I have not read any of the context you mention, and so can only judge your words and intent from this article.

I use ML in its various forms daily, and am a proponent of pragmatism in engineering. I am a mathematician, though, and language has precise meaning.

Nice work. no offense.

271. Steve Henry says:

Hi Randal.

I wanted to thank you for this site and your algorithm. I just completed a 48 contiguous state, 3 country ultimate road trip, which I completed in 6 weeks. The three countries were Scotland, France and Canada (nice side trips).

I used most of your algorithm and adjusted some of my driving based on some summer events I wanted to attend in a few major cities. Trouble visits based on the algorithm were Kentucky and West Virginia but as you can see in the link below, I figured out how to overcome them.

Here is the Travel Progress page on my blog:
http://whereissteve.net/progress/.

Thanks again man.

This algorithm is great!

I hope it inspires more people to get out there and live it up.

272. Noor E Zannat says:

273. stephen woodcock says:

looking for shortest route that touches all 48 states and begins in NH and ends in San Diego Ca

274. humpbee says:

“The best part is that this road trip is designed so that you can start anywhere on the route as long as you follow it from then on.”

275. Marlene Matyevich says:

I can’t believe the site to see in MD is listed as Annapolis historic district…. what about Fort McHenry,.. the birthplace of the Star Spangled Banner????? smh

276. Maryvoneiff says:

Has anyone attempted this in a camper and listed campsites along the way?

277. alwweb says:

This is really cool. Too bad I hadn’t heard about it before we did our extremely non-optimized walking tour of Philadelphia. I swear we walked past one place 3 times on the way to somewhere else. I can’t wait to try your code out for myself.

278. Ron Kendall says:

I guess you never heard of the motorcycle group called the Iron Butt Association. They do 49 states in 7 days on a regular basis since 1998.

http://www.ironbutt.com/ridecerts/getdocument.cfm?DocID=14

279. Daniel Williams says:

Erm, I just came out with something similar with Harley’s Road Trip planner using Google Maps and hit all lower 48 State capitals and DC. Didn’t take years to do it and I got the same mileage, sometimes less, and you see a lot more of the interior (Dude seriously, I know Kansas might not have much but you skipped all of Tennessee which has some of the best roads). Granted I’ve been doing this for 3 hours copying all of the addresses and then arranging them, but still.

Such a nice and informative blog.

281. Reuben Caron says:

It would be interesting to see a 2-3 month itinerary that takes into account time of day to limit the loss of time due to park/site closure.

282. Jack Klosterman says:

I
already did this… in 1969 my friend and I drove to all 48 state
capitals (flew to Honolulu and Juneau)… it took 64 days. We met with
19 governors and while in DC, our Congressman and both Senators. At the
time we heard that we were the first to ever make this trip.

What a beautiful and helpful project – I’m in love with the different shapes of the US for a long time now and thinking about how to make “the perfect complete road trip” 🙂 Now I’m ready, thank you so much!
Liebe Grüsse from Bern/Switzerland,

284. Eric Zimmermann says:

Totally wrong! Cuts out Seattle and that area of the Northwest, spends too much time in Texas and the South, avoids the California coast, doesn’t hit the Great Lakes, skips Capitol Reef and Moab area of Utah. Yeah, they totally screw up the southwest and west coast. It should be following the coast and then backtracking and zig zagging a lot more across the Sierra Nevadas.

Sorry, but the “ultimate” claim is false, as is the scientific reasoning. I can and have done better and I don’t want anyone following this map thinking they’ve done anything special, other than missing a lot. It’d still be a decent road trip, and obviously this is somewhat subjective. Some people wouldn’t even care about national parks and would just want to see cities… as they note. By their own criteria, though, this fails to deliver anything other than thoughtlessly drawn lines on a map.

285. wasserball says:

The school paid you to do this? 🙂

286. Joe Popp says:

Randy! I wanted to thank you for creating this map. I am doing a 48 state tour as a singer-songwriter on a motorcycle. I will be filming my travels for my TV show/Web series called Popp Over America. Your map makes my planning so much easier! Check out the pilot episode here: http://www.poppoveramerica.com

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288. CocktailTravellers.com says:

Just wondering if anyone has actually done this drive? We are looking at doing it towards the end of the year, and would love any hints, tips, feedback, ideas on costs etc. Thanks for your help!

289. Raphaël Vandenberghe says:

why aren’t Zion canyon, arches NP.,Yosemite, Monument National in Colorado,Canyonlands, Monument Valley, death valley, Alcatraz,Mesa verde, Canyon de Chelly, Antelope canyon, Horseshoe Bend (Arizona), and others, mentionned ?

290. Lorraine says:

I want to thank you for this. I’m retiring in a few months, and driving around the US has always been my dream. Your maps and information are giving me a great starting plan. I’ve been to several places already, so I may go around them, and I may combine a couple of your maps, but after looking at these, I realize my dream can be realized.

291. brianspurling says:

Took me WEEKS of hard work to come up with almost precisely that route through manual trial and error 🙂 (and exposing every bug in Google Maps in the process!)

Criticism of the algorithm: needs to consider seasons (climate and busyness). Summer in the north, fall down the east coast, winter in the south, spring in the west.

Most importantly, need to hit the big national parks in the west just as the snows clear, not leave them until peak summer when they’re packed out. And not get stuck in the snow in Idaho.

So only so far machine learning can go, perhaps…? (I jest, I’m a big fan – this would indeed have saved me days of effort 🙂 )

http://lastminuteslostevenings.tumblr.com

292. James Bailey says:

Alsolutely magic, I am looking to do a cross country trip. I wish google would allow you to pin point it all and not have it in 6 separate ones, only downside.

293. Sebastian Middelberg says:

Is there any way to import the map to Google Maps ‘My Maps’ or to work with the map?

At the moment I only can view the points, without labels or other modifications.

294. Piper Robertson says:

It amuses me that everyone commenting experienced the same outrage on behalf of WA that I did. I spent the first 14 years of my life in WA (I have also lived in Utah, Pennsylvania, Maryland and have family in every state), and can easily name a dozen places off the beaten trail that don’t expose you to radiation, all of which have equal scientific value. But additionally I have had the advantage of being able to travel extensively throughout my life. The writer ignored a hundred sites along the old Pacific Highway in all three states to make what I see as a political statement. But my advise if you want to EXPERIENCE this wonderful country via road-trip, get an atlas and drive, nix the GPS. Stop where there are brown signs and read the damn plaques.

295. MrDon says:

A great piece of work, but would have been good to have included several national parks which the route comes very close to without touching – Zion, Crater Lake, North Rim, Yosemite, Sequoia, Joshua, Arches, Sand Dunes for example. The route avoids the Oregon and Californian coast as well. Can you plot the optimum route through all national parks?

296. Robert H. says:

Are there any toll roads along the route?

297. Scott Lewis says:

Is there a way to take the list and eliminate the “been there, done that’s”?

298. Janice Roche Warrington says:

This is AMAZING thank you so much for this article! I am inspired to plan my very own trip 🙂 🙂

299. “The saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single
step.” Really, that’s not true. Every major journey begins with a plan:
where you’re going, where you’re stopping along the way, and how you’re
can play a crucial role in that planning phase and save you a ton of
time along the way.”

I don’t agree with this much. Most of the times I start doing stuff without a plan in my head. Later, if I still want to continue, I sit down and create a plan.

300. Thắng Olson says:

Wow,

All i can say is its sad to see all the people complaining and making this article about themselves. Seriously, this man put a lot of work into making this, give him some credit. I don’t see ANYONE coming up with another map that charts all this territory and putting it out on the internet to get shredded apart by people who merely have a differing opinion than your own.

Baffles me that people have to get “outraged” at something that was never about them in the first place. Take a chill pill and stop being offended by something that wasn’t directed at you. Bottom line is a person, did a ton of work, to share something that he found interesting, for free, and is getting shit from complete strangers, for no reason, other than they disagree with the mans views on what is classified as a natural monument, or areas that are noteworthy in a state.

Hardly anyone has actually mentioned anything in regard to the algorithm that was employed and to explain how it worked, or anything along the lines of why it was done in the first place or how he was inspired, or anything in that vein. I can’t say the science was sound because i am not familiar with it, but Randy, thank you for putting this out there for people to enjoy. I appreciate the fact that even if i disagree with you on some things – that this is, at least to me, great that this is just out there for me to look at.

Regards.

301. Marco says:

Great article!
I loved your method and analysis. It will be really helpful, for sure. Thank you for writting it!

302. Tom Price says:

https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e184d99169bb201c6bc90d27bde75b589f80ebcef33c461c87111c0089c68174.jpg I will do the trip for 40 people out of Raleigh or Charlotte NC for \$1950.00 which pays for motor coach and hotel rooms (2 people to room). 919 349 7874

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My name is ANGIE WOOD before i meet DR ASELE i have been in frustrating debts for about 3 years i have done everything possible to pay my debts and live a normal happy life with my family and friends but to no avail,I have played lottery for more than 7 years but never win big always been mock about spending my little earns on tickets that does not yield result but i was very determined and never give up on myself with hopes of earning a better life with the mega million games someday, This is certainly a shocking and a genuine live Testimony, It was hard for me to believe when i saw a comment on the internet regarding how DR ASELE help people winning lottery by sending them the winning numbers. This winning numbers are 100% guarantee that you must win the lottery. Words are not enough to express my profound gratitude for the wonderful thing that DR ASELE did for me. I have spent more than 5000 dollars buying lottery tickets all to no avail. I was on the internet last week when I saw testimonies on how DR ASELE has helped many people to win big in lottery. After contacting DR ASELE and I explained my condition to him he cast a lottery spell for me which made me won big, (SEVEN HUNDRED FIFTY-EIGHT MILLION, SEVEN HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS) From the powerball draws All what he said and what he promised to do really happened.I guess never believed in magic or spells because I thought they were mostly scam acts or tricksters until I met him,everything changed,it exists but only in the right hands and with it everything is possible.Below is the names of the previous winners whom he has helped also in winning the lottery games BRYON STEWART, MARIE HOLMES, JULIE LEAK and more more others who he heard help in winning the lottery so i got his email and website online after deliberate thinking i decided to give him a try by contacting him through his email address and website behold after my encounter with my life have changed for good all thanks to the greatest lottery spell caster in the world, YOU CAN CONTACT HIM NOW AND CELEBRATE WITH OTHERS.

Email [aselespelltemple@nullgmail.COM]
call him via number +2349057259314

304. Reginald Tyus says:

Am so happy.. thanks to [email protected] com for saving my relationship. Dr. Todd is the best and kindest spell caster I’ve ever met! Thanks, thanks thanks!!!!!!!

305. Hakan Güneş says:

Dear Randy
The blog contains many useful tips. I want to travel all over the USA in a few years. I want to rent a campervan from NY. I am a good landscape photographer. I would like to take on the enormous structures in a few large cities. I want to observe the lives of cities like NY. However, I am willing to take real american landscape photographs. For this reason I can often give up on normal routes. For this I will look at the landscape photographs taken earlier. The problem is, the United States is a very big country. Each region needs to go in different seasons. I’m afraid I do not have such a time budget. I need to finish in 2 months at most. I think the last spring is the most beautiful. I can start from the north and return to NY without winter. Of course you can say that you start your journey from Miami, Dallas, San Francisco, for example. Everything is possible. First of all, it is necessary to decide and start the journey. The biggest problem is that my English is so bad. I hope Americans behave well to a traveler.

306. Cindy Kistler says:

You have done a brilliant job making sure that people understand where you are coming from. And let me tell you, I get it. Please post more updates to cure.

307. benjamindblack says:

This is such a great project. Thank you very much for sharing it.

308. Rueben Olivas says:

I look at this map for just what it is. Suggestions and recommendations for the quickest way to get to each state and see and visit something cool. It cracks me up that some people get their knickers all ruffled up. Get real people. Just deviate and go to where you want. Not big deal and then move on. No where does it say that this is the absolute route to take or the sites recommended are the #1 or must see places. Everyone has different interests so go with it. Your trip, your call.

309. Rental24H says:

wooow!
it is so good article!
thanks for the useful post!
i like it

310. alisjack says:

I am gonna enjoy so much there.

311. Mark Norris says:

You did good Dr. Olson. I appreciate what you accomplished. I read a few comments here and was a bit disappointed in what I would characterize as a lack of understanding concerning the mission’s objectives, by a few folks. We all have our own interests, and these interests vary, person to person. I like science and science history, music and music history (I lean toward rock and roll, the blues, Jazz, #GoFooFighters #GoTheDoors), nature’s beauty, fossils, geological wonderment. You gave a tool for people to find their own wonderment, and I thank you, Sir.

312. Pedro Danon Albuquerque says:

Did you manage to do it all in 3 months?

313. Natchalaikorn Sirichumroonwit says:

Which states are missed?

314. Gunn Jenssen says:

HOW TO GET YOUR EX BACK WITH YOU NOW!!!
I have something to share with you!!! There is a great joy in my heart which I want to share with everyone. My name is Gunn Jenssen Faith . I had a misunderstanding with my lover several months ago; which led us to break up and he never wanted to hear my voice again. But as time went on, a good friend of mine recommended DR.PEPOKO who could help me with Love Spell to get my man back. At first, I thought the idea of a love spell was strange,but was willing to give it a try because i really love my boyfriend. For the first time I was scared to contact the DR.PEPOKO because I was not sure if what they did was against my religion. But my friend assured me that they only use Spell which is safe and has no side effects. I felt a little better and decided to contact DR.PEPOKO on his mail (pepokolovespell@nullgmail.com)I contacted him through his email and explained everything to him. He said that I shouldn’t worry, that my lover will come back to me on his knees begging for forgiveness. I bought an item that he told me to buy for the preparation of the spell and assured me that my lover will come to me within 48 hours in remorse. My greatest joy now is that he actually came back to me and fell on his knees begging for forgiveness. We got back together and our relationship has been better this second time around. I have to give DR.PEPOKO all the credit for helping us get back to a better place than where we began. The new found love that my boyfriend has for me is incredible and i can’t wait to see what the future holds for us. Do you have any problem with your loved one? Well worry no more because DR.PEPOKO can provide you with a spell to get him or her back. With the help of a spell just as he helped me. Contact DR.PEPOKO via email: pepokolovespell@nullgmail.com or visit her website: http://www.pepokolovespelltemple.blogspot.com

Here is my details also if you wish to contact me personal::: gunnjenssen.faith@nullgmail.com

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