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.

The Most Popular Scary Netflix Series in Each State

It’s October, which means you have a full month to cram as many spooky movies and TV series into your schedule as humanly possible. Of course, you can watch a horror flick year-round, but there’s something about watching it in the lead-up to Halloween that makes it that much more fun.

In celebration of the shows that make us scream and tense up in terror, Reviews.org has created a map revealing each state’s favorite scary series on Netflix. The site started with a list of the most beloved and best-rated scary series on Netflix, then used Google Trends to analyze how popular they were in each state.

By the numbers, British sci-fi series Black Mirror is America’s favorite small-screen fright. It’s the most popular series in six East Coast states, as well as California. Most of the show’s self-contained dystopian plots are entirely plausible, which makes it all the more unsettling. It could get a lot scarier, too. Showrunners recently announced that the fifth season will have an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure episode.

Reviews.org observed some other regional trends, too. Supernatural thrillers featuring vampires, werewolves, and demons apparently do better down south. Bitten, Hemlock Grove, The Originals, and Vampire Diaries are particularly popular in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida.

In a blast to the past, Goosebumps (circa 1998) also did well in five states. Some series that made the list—like Dexter, Twin Peaks, and Santa Clarita Diet—blend several genres and don’t strictly fall into the horror category. Still, they certainly have their creepy moments. Our friends from Washington have probably had a nightmare or two about Bob.

The Most Googled Health Symptoms in Each State

iStock.com/PeopleImages
iStock.com/PeopleImages

It’s no secret that the internet has radically changed our approach to health care. Symptoms that once had us going to the doctor can now be assessed online with varying degrees of accuracy, reassuring us that it’s either benign or that death is imminent.

According to Medicare review site MedicareHealthPlans.com, the medical conditions we worry about can vary widely by region. The site recently examined Google Trends for the most widely-searched symptoms and then looked to see which states had the highest volume of searches for each.

The takeaway: People are worried about some very strange conditions.

A map of the most-Googled health symptoms in each state
MedicareHealthPlans

The West Coast seems preoccupied with more conventional maladies—stomach issues, including food poisoning and morning sickness. Creeping closer to the East Coast, things get very specific.

Wisconsin and South Carolina residents seem to be curious about the color of their poop and whether light or green-colored stool is indicative of anything. (Maybe: clay-colored stool could indicate problems with your bile duct, while green stool might mean food is moving through the large intestine too quickly. That, or you’re eating a lot of vegetables.)

Utah’s investigation of morning sickness checks out: It holds the second-place position among states for the number of babies born annually. Nebraskans might be getting a surplus of Viagra commercials; Ohio is doing its due diligence on the problems of being uncircumcised.

The most searched condition in a fifth of states? Stress. Googling “sweaty palms” probably isn’t helping.

[h/t MedicareHealthPlans.com]

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