The Ultimate USA Road Trip
A senior Data Scientist at the University of Pennsylvania called Dr Randy Olson has created the ultimate algorithm in his spare time.
His full time job is furthering the progression of biomedical science, but he has put his knowledge of algorithms to the great skill to and created the perfect American road trip
Every US State
“Tracy Staedter from Discovery News proposed an interesting idea to me,” Randy says on his website.
“Visiting every U.S. state has long been on my bucket list, so I jumped on the opportunity and opened up my machine learning toolbox for another quick weekend project.”
It’s, one hell of a road trip, it’s takes in all 48 lower states (sorry it doesn’t take you to Alaska or Hawaii) and takes in 50 of America’s most famous landmarks.
Randy set out with three clear aims that the route needed to fulfil:
- The trip must make at least one stop in all 48 states in the contiguous U.S.
- The trip would only make stops at National Natural Landmarks, National Historic Sites, National Parks, or National Monuments.
- The trip must be taken by car and never leave the U.S.
Guided by these three principles and his knows of algorithms, he set about creating the Ultimate US road trip. Using Google Maps to show case the route, it’s likely to get even the most hardened travellers excited.
“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,” Randy wrote on his website.
“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.
“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 two to three 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.”
The trip is a little on the long side, lets be honest most bosses aren’t going to allow you to take 2-3 months off, but if you can get the time off below is the full list of spots you will visit.
Grand Canyon, AZ
Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID
Yellowstone National Park, WY
Pikes Peak, CO
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
The Alamo, TX
The Platt Historic District, OK
Toltec Mounds, AR
Elvis Presley’s Graceland, TN
Vicksburg National Military Park, MS
French Quarter, New Orleans, LA
USS Alabama, AL
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL
Okefenokee Swamp Park, GA
Fort Sumter National Monument, SC
Lost World Caverns, WV
Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, NC
Mount Vernon, VA
White House, Washington, DC
Colonial Annapolis Historic District, MD
New Castle Historic District, Delaware
Cape May Historic District, NJ
Liberty Bell, PA
Statue of Liberty, NY
The Mark Twain House & Museum, CT
The Breakers, RI
USS Constitution, MA
Acadia National Park, ME
Mount Washington Hotel, NH
Shelburne Farms, VT
Fox Theater, Detroit, MI
Spring Grove Cemetery, OH
Mammoth Cave National Park, KY
West Baden Springs Hotel, IN
Abraham Lincoln’s Home, IL
Gateway Arch, MO
W. Parker Carousel Museum, KS
Terrace Hill Governor’s Mansion, IA
Fort Snelling, MN
Ashfall Fossil Bed, NE
Mount Rushmore, SD
Fort Union Trading Post, ND
Glacier National Park, MT
Hanford Site, WA
Columbia River Highway, OR
San Francisco Cable Cars, CA
San Andreas Fault, CA
Hoover Dam, NV
Not bad at all.
Reflecting on his project, Randy wrote: “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.”
Luke from Seethe.World said “because the route is a circle and you can start the route anywhere so if you are planning on, simply choose the cheapest flight to any of the start points and then off you.”
If this wasn’t enough Randy also used his knowledge of algorithms to create a guaranteed way of finding Waldo every time in the Where’s Waldo books – this kind of takes away the fun, but it will stop the arguments every christmas.
Your own Road trip
He also give advice if needed on how to create your own routes if taking 3 months off is not practical. Randy said:
“If you like the idea of taking an optimal road trip but don’t like the locations I chose, don’t fret: you can make your own road trip!”
“This time around, I used the Gurobi TSP solver to optimize this road trip. Check out Nathan Brixius’ blog post to learn how to make your own, or check out my alternative methods to optimizing road trips using Python and Google Maps.”
“If Python coding is beyond you, there are web sites like RouteXL.com that will do it for you. They optimize road trips with up to 20 stops for free, and 20+ stops for a nominal fee.”
I am a data geek at heart – but even still I would struggle with the mapping, RouteXL would have to be the solution that worked the best for me.
So who is going to ask their boss for 3 months off and book some flights to America?