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The Ultimate U.S. Road Trip, According to a Data Scientist

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Photo via <a href="http://www.randalolson.com/2015/03/08/computing-the-optimal-road-trip-across-the-u-s/">Randal Olson</a>
Photo via Randal Olson

Here's one way to schedule a cross-country road trip. Randy Olson, a data scientist best known for calculating the ultimate strategy for finding Waldo, used the same Where's Waldo algorithm to chart an optimized route across all 48 states in the contiguous U.S., hitting a list of 50 highlights— including the Grand Canyon, the White House, and 48 other national landmarks, monuments, and state parks.

Olson was approached by Discovery News' Tracy Staedter, who provided him with the landmarks. The pair established a few guidelines for the route:

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.

After the rules were set in place, Olson harnessed the power of Google Maps and a Python script he wrote to calculate the fastest possible route that hit each landmark with the least amount of backtracking.

Olson's 13,699-mile journey would take approximately nine days if done without stopping. If you were to stop to, you know, eat or sleep or instagram the Grand Canyon, the trip would probably take two or three months. Olson created an interactive version of the map you can check out here.

A list of the landmarks in order:

Grand Canyon, AZ

Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID

Yellowstone National Park, WY

Pikes Peak, CO

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM

The Alamo, TX

The Platt Historic District, OK

Toltec Mounds, AR

Elvis Presley's Graceland, TN

Vicksburg National Military Park, MS

French Quarter, New Orleans, LA

USS Alabama, AL

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL

Okefenokee Swamp Park, GA

Fort Sumter National Monument, SC

Lost World Caverns, WV

Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, NC

Mount Vernon, VA

White House, Washington, DC

Colonial Annapolis Historic District, MD

New Castle Historic District, Delaware

Cape May Historic District, NJ

Liberty Bell, PA

Statue of Liberty, NY

The Mark Twain House & Museum, CT

The Breakers, RI

USS Constitution, MA

Acadia National Park, ME

Mount Washington Hotel, NH

Shelburne Farms, VT

Fox Theater, Detroit, MI

Spring Grove Cemetery, OH

Mammoth Cave National Park, KY

West Baden Springs Hotel, IN

Abraham Lincoln's Home, IL

Gateway Arch, MO

C. W. Parker Carousel Museum, KS

Terrace Hill Governor's Mansion, IA

Taliesin, WI

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

·Researcher maps out epic U.S. road trip hitting all 50 landmarks in fastest route [NY Daily News]