Vacation time? Ultimate US road trip mapped out

Graduate research assistant at Michigan State University devised the plan

Randy Olson created an algorithm that computed the optimal U.S. road trip, hitting every major landmark. (Courtesy, randalolson.com)
Randy Olson created an algorithm that computed the optimal U.S. road trip, hitting every major landmark. (Courtesy, randalolson.com)

EAST LANSING, Mich. (KOIN 6) — Do you have dreams of completing a cross-country road trip in your lifetime? Well, a new map has revealed the fastest, most efficient way to hit each state on the mainland U.S. with stops at every major landmark.

Randy Olson is a fourth-year Computer Science graduate research assistant at Michigan State University. He’s making headlines with his latest accomplishment: Computing the optimal road trip across the U.S.

“One of the hardest parts of planning a road trip is deciding where to stop along the way,” Olson said on his website. “Given how large and diverse the U.S. is, it’s especially difficult to make a road trip that will appeal to everyone.”

But by using an algorithm, Olson was able to accomplish just that — a U.S. road trip hitting every major landmark.

Olson mapped out the perfect solution for a complete trip around the U.S. in only 13,699 miles of driving. Without factoring in traffic, the trip would take an estimated 224 hours, or 9.33 days, to complete.

“It’s truly an epic undertaking that will take at least 2-3 months to complete,” Olson said on his website. “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.”

The idea, Olson said, came from a woman named Tracy Staedter from Discovery News. Olson had previously written an article called: Here’s Waldo: Computing the optimal search strategy for finding Waldo, from the popular book series, “Where’s Waldo?”

“I was going to crush Slate’s supposed foolproof strategy and carve a trail of defeated Waldo-searchers in my wake,” Olson said in his article.

In the wake of the success of “Here’s Waldo,” Staedter suggested applying the same algorithm to compute the optimal road trip across every state in the mainland U.S.

Olson then turned his quick weekend project into a viral, online sensation.

For an interactive map outlining Olson’s optimal U.S. road trip, click here.

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