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.

How Much Money You Need to Earn in Each State to Rent a House, Mapped

iStock
iStock

In many places across the U.S., the rent is simply too damn high. Average housing prices are rising twice as fast as wages are, and as a result, more and more people are renting. And that's not cheap either—as of 2015, 38 percent of American households were "rent-burdened," meaning spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

What does this mean for you? This map from the cost information site How Much, spotted by Thrillist, can tell you. It details what kind of monthly income you need to make in order to rent the average home in each state without spending more than 30 percent of your salary.

The map may confirm what you already suspected: Places like California, New York, Massachusetts, D.C., and Hawaii are very expensive to live in. You might be surprised to learn just how expensive, though. While a renter in Iowa only needs to earn $3500 or so a month to comfortably pay for housing, someone living in Washington, D.C. needs to make almost $8500 a month, or almost $102,000 a year.

A pink and red map of monthly wages needed to afford housing in each state
How Much

Here's what you need to make each month to live in the top 10 most expensive states in the U.S.:

1. Washington D.C.: $8487
2. California: $8313
3. Hawaii: $7806
4. New York: $7223
5. Massachusetts: $7193
6. New Jersey: $6717
7. Colorado: $6197
8. Washington: $5993
9. Maryland: $5863
10. Connecticut: $5590

And here are the 10 cheapest:

1. West Virginia: $2960
2. Oklahoma: $3117
3. Arkansas: $3157
4. Alabama: $3313
5. Missouri: $3367
6 Kansas: $3437
7. Iowa: $3473
8. Mississippi: $3493
9. Kentucky: $3570
10. Ohio: $3613

But before you pack up and move to West Virginia or Mississippi, be aware that those states also have some of the lowest median wages in the U.S., meaning that in reality, housing isn't all that affordable there, either.

There are, to be sure, some weaknesses with this particular data. The map doesn't take into account what kind of home you'd be renting—it just looks at the median price for a rental in each state—nor does it distinguish between locations within states. (The rent in Syracuse, New York is a lot different than the rent in Manhattan, just like the rent in San Francisco is a lot different than the rent in Fresno, California.) But it's still a useful snapshot of our current housing situation.

Take a look at the rest of the data over on HowMuch.net.

[h/t Thrillist]

The Top-Rated Movie in Every Country

Vouchercloud
Vouchercloud

Want to impress your friends with your knowledge of foreign films but don’t know where to start? This map from Vouchercloud provides a good starting point. The UK-based voucher site used public reviews from IMDB to create a map showing the best-rated movie produced in nearly every country. (As it turns out, some nations, like North Korea, don’t have much of a film industry.)

A movie map of the world
Click here to enlarge
Vouchercloud

Films featured on the map were either produced, filmed, or linked in some way to the country in which they are listed. Judging by the map, drama appears to be the most popular genre worldwide, with the top movies from 39 countries being classified as such. Comedy is the second most popular genre, followed by adventure, crime, biography, action, and animation.

The newest releases from 2018 to appear on the map include The Wild Pear Tree (from Bosnia and Herzegovina), Dying to Survive (China), Ekvtime: Man of God (Georgia), Goodachari (India), Yowis Ben (Indonesia), Deception: Oo Pel Dan Myin (Myanmar), Dilan 1990 (Singapore), and Ahlat Agaci (Sweden).

Of course, a few familiar titles also make an appearance: The top movie in the U.S.—as well as the top-rated movie on IMDB’s site in general—is writer-director Frank Darabont’s 1994 drama The Shawshank Redemption. Other big box office hits include Casino Royale (claimed by the Bahamas) and The Dark Knight (UK). Many of the films on the map have ties to more than one country, such as Fight Club (1999), which is set in the U.S. but is listed as Germany’s top-rated film. Similarly, First They Killed My Father (the 2017 film directed by Angelina Jolie) was primarily shot in Cambodia.

If you want to get a jump start on your viewing party, Jolie's movie about the Khmer Rouge is available on Netflix streaming (at least for American viewers), as are Punjab 1984 (Canada’s top film) and Room (Ireland’s top film).

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