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This Map Shows the Ultimate U.S. Road Trip

The concept of a road trip is as American as apple pie, and yet, devising the “best” U.S. driving route is a bit of a head scratcher. Much depends on time parameters, personal preference, and frankly, how long you want to spend behind the wheel.

Tracy Staedter at Discovery News decided to take on that challenge, enlisting Randy Olson—Michigan State University doctoral student and the man behind the famed (and super helpful) Where’s Waldo algorithm—to devise what you might call the platonic ideal of the United States road trip. The parameters were: It had to hit all of the 48 continental states, every stop had to be a National Natural Landmark, a National Historic Site, a National Park, or a National Monument, and of course, had to be confined to car travel and within U.S. borders.

With a stop in Washington D.C. and two in California, the result is 50 points of all American awesomenesss.

Here are the destinations:

1. Grand Canyon, AZ
2. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
3. Craters of the Moon, 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, 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, D.C.
21. Colonial Annapolis Historic District, MD
22. New Castle Historic District, DE
23. Cape May Historic District, NJ
24. Liberty Bell, PA
25. Statue of Liberty, NY
26. The Mark Twain House & Museum, CT
27. The Breakers, RI
28. USS Constitution, MA
29. Acadia National Park, ME
30. Mount Washington Hotel, NH
31. Shelburne Farms, VT
32. Fox Theater, 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

That list starts with the Grand Canyon, but you could theoretically begin anywhere as long as you drive in sequence after that. Staedter guesses it would take a little over nine days of driving straight through, but more realistically is a two- or three-month trip.

For the nitty gritty on how he came up with the route, check out Olson’s blog. After determining the stops, the main goal of the algorithm was to find the shortest distance between points.

Olson wrote to Staedter: "Instead of exhaustively looking at every possible solution, genetic algorithms start with a handful of random solutions and continually tinker with these solutions — always trying something slightly different from the current solution and keeping the best one — until they can’t find a better solution any more."

And whether or not you understand the specifics of how it was created, the map is truly a marvel and the kind of itinerary you'll probably spend all winter dreaming about. See the full, interactive map here, and for additional #travelgoals, check out Olson’s road trip maps for U.S. cities and Europe.

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Afternoon Map
What $100 Is Really Worth in Your State
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iStock

How far can you stretch your dollar? Depends on where you're located in the U.S. The Tax Foundation has taken data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to show the real value of $100 in each state. (We've also covered the D.C.-based think tank’s previously analyses, but the numbers changed ever-so-slightly year to year.)

The graphic below compares how much $100 is worth in goods compared to the national average. For instance, in high-price areas like California, New York, and D.C., your $100 is worth significantly less than the U.S. average—in those places, your money has the purchasing power of around $88.18, $86.70, and $85.47, respectively. If you live in Mississippi, meanwhile, your dollars go farther than in any other state. Your $100 is the equivalent of $116.01.

A color-coded map of the U.S. lists the real value of $100 in each state.
Tax Foundation

The data isn't surprising. People move from high-priced regions to cheaper areas of the country all the time. And it’s not just a matter of real estate. In Los Angeles, the average price of a beer is $3.64, but in New York, it’s $5.36, according to GoEuro’s annual Beer Index.

Cities, naturally, tend to be more expensive than rural places, so where you live within a state also has a pretty big impact. It’s much more expensive to live in Manhattan than to live in Syracuse, New York, or to live in Chicago versus downstate Illinois, as the Tax Foundation’s previous work has shown. This difference, however, is generally counter-balanced by the fact that expensive areas typically have higher salaries, too. Minimum wage laws, tax rates, and other factors also play a role.

It’s not just a theoretical exercise. A slight variation in the real value of your dollars can have a significant impact in your standard of living. The Tax Foundation explains:

Regional price differences are strikingly large; real purchasing power is 36 percent greater in Mississippi than it is in the District of Columbia. In other words, by this measure, if you have $50,000 in after-tax income in Mississippi, you would need after-tax earnings of $68,000 in the District of Columbia just to afford the same overall standard of living.

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Textio
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Afternoon Map
The Most Overused Business Jargon in Each State
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Textio

The business world loves some jargon. Corporate leaders are always touting near-meaningless words like “synergy” and used-to-death office phrases like “let’s touch base” (what base?). Job listings start to blur together when every company you apply to work for is looking for “a badass.”

Textio is an AI-driven service that analyzes job postings and identifies the phrases and patterns that lead to the most responses from qualified applications and the quickest hires. The company recently combed through its database of 250 million corporate job postings to find the most common business jargon clichés in each state, revealing how the group-think of corporate hiring can vary from state to state.

In Oregon, it seems, candidates need to be ready for some “revolutioneering,” while California employers ask potential hires to “tee up.” Oklahoma companies claim to be on the “bleeding edge,” and New Yorkers better get ready to “herd cats.” (Not exactly a full-throated endorsement for the state’s workforce.) Not to be left out for lack of statehood, Washington D.C. companies are looking to “shift the paradigm.”

In its editing services, Textio highlights this kind of unspecific, clichéd language as “red flags” for companies looking to attract highly qualified job seekers with their postings—and it’s right to. Jargon is devoid of meaning, and using it turns people off. No one applies for a job looking to “achieve alignment,” and no one needs to be told that their future company is looking for someone to “increase productivity.” What is getting aligned? What kind of productivity? What job wouldn’t involve “corporate values” in some way?

It’s great that Textio brought this to the table, leveraging its expertise in the field. Hopefully reading this will be a change-driver. Maybe it will help your company with its message alignment, or help you craft a really great statement of duties. Go ahead, blaze a trail with that job posting. Go the extra mile. That’s where the magic truly happens, after all. Let’s touch base later. It’s just good practice. Just make sure to have an exit strategy.

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