Busy Days

The Twelve Mile Circle audience seems to enjoy little contests or puzzles interspersed within the usual healthy dose of geo-oddity goodness. Actually, sometimes I think the community relishes interactive topics even more than the purely informational ones based upon sheer number of comments posted to each article. Hopefully today will provide another opportunity for that. I’ve had some fun with my latest curiosity question over the last couple of days.

How many individual states in the United States can someone visit in a single day by automobile? My personal theoretical best result was eighteen states — counting the District of Columbia as a "state" for this purpose — in 23 hours and 59 minutes. Yes, we all realize DC isn’t a state although it’s often considered a state-equivalent for various demographic and statistical purposes so it will count similarly for this exercise.

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My solution is:

  • A = White River Junction, VT
  • B = Dover, NH
  • C = Eliot, ME
  • D = Revere, MA
  • E = Cranston, RI
  • F = Stamford, CT
  • G = New Rochelle, NY
  • H = Elizabeth, NJ
  • I = Port Richmond, PA
  • J = Brookside, DE
  • K = College Park, MD
  • L = Washington, DC
  • M = Leesburg, VA
  • N = Charles Town, WV
  • O = Erwin, TN
  • P = Woodfin, NC
  • Q = Greenville, SC
  • R = Lavonia, GA

I also used a variation on this theme where I diverted west after reaching West Virginia (map) rather than heading south. I captured only seventeen which again included the District of Columbia.

The rules of the game are simple.

  1. The journey has to be completed in less than 24 hours according to default automatic directions calculated by Google Maps. 23 hours and 59 minutes is perfectly acceptable. 24 hours and 0 minutes crosses into the next day and is not acceptable. I realize that Google Maps directions change over time so some results may have a shelf life. Let’s not stress about that. No result lasts forever.
  2. The District of Columbia, as I mentioned previously, counts as a state-equivalent here. Nonetheless, solutions that do not include the District will be considered more impressive with all other factors equal.
  3. Only one destination per state may be used on the list. That will make it more challenging. It will also make it easier to grade. Thus if the last pushpin is "R" we’ll know immediately that the value must be eighteen and then only have to check whether it happens to include the District or not.
  4. Only place names can be used as destinations. It doesn’t matter if it’s a town, a park, a neighborhood, an airport, or something else. It can be used as part of a solution if Google Maps considers it a destination. Specific street addresses, business locations or Latitude/Longitude coordinates cannot be used. Just place names. Keep it simple like the list I used.
  5. The route cannot be manipulated manually. Google Maps allows one to create intermediary points between destinations. Those are not allowed for this exercise.
  6. Minimize backtracking. Notice that I am specifically allowing incidental backtracking. The Google Maps routing algorithm would make it extremely difficult otherwise. Just try to keep backtracks to reasonable distances, perhaps on the order of a couple of miles or fewer. Zero-backtracks will serve as a tie-breaker. I’d consider a solution more elegant if someone went to the effort of removing all backtracks.
  7. I reserve the right to clarify or create rules if readers discover bizarre or "unfair" loopholes.

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This is an example of "acceptable" backtracking. A traveler would cover a 200 foot stretch of 16th Street NW in Washington, DC twice in my solution. I suppose one could search for specific neighborhoods to remove the backtrack but that would then add more words to the list and increase clutter. It’s all about tradeoffs.

The current target is eighteen (counting DC) at 23 hours 59 minutes as described above. The goal is to either reach more than eighteen states (or find an eighteen state solution bypassing DC) or reduce the amount of time necessary. One could start with my route and shave a few minutes off of it. I think there might be a little slack left in it — I stopped shaving it down as soon as I generated a value below 24 hours — although I will be more impressed by solutions that exhibit individual creativity.

Feel free to expand this to other nations such as Canada or Australia and lay-down the gauntlet for other challenges, or focus on international border crossings such as the number of European countries that could be visited in a single day and do the same. Have fun with it!

Place a Google Maps "Short URL" in a comment when you defeat my solution. I know there are better answers lurking within the 12MC audience.

24 Replies to “Busy Days”

  1. I can come up with 10 European countries. It is a routing from Vipiteno, Italy to Malmo, Sweden, by way of Basel, Luxembourg, Maastrict, Hamburg and Copenhagen. The countries are Italy, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Sweden.

    Despite the impressive number of countries, this routing is a bit frustrating. You would arrive in Malmo with almost three hours to spare, but would not have enough time to get to Norway or Finland before the 24 hours expires. Even worse, if you began the trip in Croatia, to add an eleventh country, you would be just over the 24-hour limit, by something like 20 minutes.

    1. Whoops, I meant 11 European countries. Forgot to mention Belgium. With another 20 minutes it would be possible to add Croatia and make it 12.

  2. I got 14 European countries in 23 hours and 22 minutes. From the Netherlands to Romania. My route comes very close to Bosnia and Herzegovina, but this country is unfortunately not connected to the rest of the world via Google Maps.


    1. After several unsuccessful attempts at getting a route north to Poland, finally got that beaten! 15 countries (from Netherlands to Poland) in 23 hours, 56 minutes.
      (Hint: default routing from Liechtenstein to Italy’s corner goes through Germany anyway, so you don’t have to detour through Germany on the Luxembourg-Switzerland route which indeed is faster through France.)


        1. 22 hours, 48 minutes. 15 countries. And 15 destinations, this time, so it’s following all the rules. I’m trying for 16. If you don’t hear back from me, I proooobably didn’t make it.

          1. Can’t do any better than 15. However, with relaxation of rule 4, it’s possible to, while getting to within a few hundred metres of Bosnia, about 10 km from Romania (and thus 17 countries) in 23:59. http://goo.gl/maps/nzr1

          2. Sorry for doing it so late – I’ve been stuck in a forest in Kaluga Oblast without any sort of Internet access all the way since June 26, and only now returned to my home in Moscow City (a trip somewhat interesting from a border-counting perspective – but completely unrelated to this topic).
            Either way, now that I’m here, I’ve tried to cut down any “slack” there is in your 22:29 route (while keeping it recognizably the same). The result is 15 minutes shorter at 22:14 (I’m still not seeing 16 countries, but maybe these extra ten or so minutes early on would help you).
            Coincidentally, what I did with Switzerland is probably seriously bending the rules 🙂 The town I chose didn’t actually have any roads leading into it (known to Google at least), so Google apparently just chose the closest possible waypoint… which would otherwise be fine (it’s something like 250 meters away anyway) except it somehow manages to be in the middle of a tunnel. Either way, that little joke doesn’t explicitly break any rules, so maybe it should be allowed 😉

            Oh, and the link: http://goo.gl/maps/uA26

          3. I know it’s been a lot of time, but I recently wondered for some reason about Busy Days (the countries version) again.
            As it turns out, Google Maps is now able to properly connect locations in Bosnia and Herzegovina to other places, and with some fiddling I was able to make a working 16-country path based on that. (It also helped that over the last several months Google’s time estimates had apparently shortened somewhat in places.)
            Anyway, here’s 16 countries in 23 hours 43 minutes: http://goo.gl/maps/MkJvk

  3. I know some people have actually done these kinds of travels to see how many political divisions they could hit in a day.

    This person visited 21 states in a single day – though it was kind of cheating considering it was the day DST ended + a time zone change from Eastern to Central, so it was technically 26 hours though it was all on the same calendar date. Visited states: ME, NH, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, WV, VA, TN, NC, GA, AL, KY, IL, MO, AR, MS

    In Europe, there was someone who started in Poland, then visited Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, San Marino, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and finished the day in the Netherlands. That’s 16 countries in one day, and I’d imagine that’s only possible in Europe. Can’t find the link for it but I know they posted some videos on Youtube.

    For Canadian provinces, I’d thought of the route that would start at the tip of Newfoundland, then take the ferry to Nova Scotia, go to New Brunswick (with a brief in and out to Prince Edward Island), then through Quebec to the easternmost tip of Ontario. However, the route (with ferry from NL -> NS) appears to take 26 hours! There might be a shortcut through northern Maine but due to the border crossings it wouldn’t be practical.

    As for my home province of Saskatchewan, I do think it is possible to visit every city in the province in 24 hours. While so far I’ve got a best of 25 hours using Google, I do think 24 hours is possible.

    Start in Lloydminster [1]
    Highway 17 north, then 3 east to St. Walburg, 26 north to Loon Lake, 304 east to Meadow Lake [2]
    Highway 4 south to North Battleford [3], then 16 east to Langham, 305 east to Martensville [4], then 12 south to Saskatoon [5]
    Then take highway 11 north to Prince Albert [6], 3 east to Melfort [7], then 6 south to Watson, taking a U-turn by taking 5 west to Humboldt [8], then back east to Watson
    Continue south on the 6 to Dafoe, then follow 16 east to Yorkton [9]; then take 10 west to Melville [10], then 47 south to Estevan [11].
    Go back northwest on highway 39 through Weyburn [12], then turn north at the junction of 6 to the south edge of Regina [13].
    Finish up by following highway 1 west through Moose Jaw [14] to Swift Current [15].

  4. For the United States, Barry Stiefel claims to have actually driven through 19 states in twenty-four hours, and 21 states in a single calendar day (using a boost from the end of Daylight Savings Time): http://www.barrystiefel.com/21_states_in_one_day/21_states_in_one_day.htm

    For Canada, an obvious way to reach five provinces in 24 hours is from eastern British Columbia to western Ontario. In an attempt to reach six provinces, a more interesting five was reached using: East Hawkesbury, ON; Saint-Francois-Xavier, QC; Saint Leonard, NB; West Amherst, NS; and Borden-Carleton, PE.

    By breaking the rules, and really stretching definitions, 6 provinces might be possible going from one of the very eastern points of Ontario, through Quebec and New Brunswick, going through Nova Scotia after visiting Prince Edward Island, and taking the Cabot Strait ferry northeastward. Using maritime boundaries, it may be possible to reach Newfoundland and Labrador before 24 hours are up.

  5. I think the most I’ve ever done in a day is 8 (VA, D.C., MD, DE, PA, NJ, NY, CT) but that was not in an attempt to get as many as possible and included several hours of stops in D.C. and Philly. Would certainly be easy to get quite a few more in New England I think (well, a lot would seem to depend on traffic).

  6. I’m not sure if I followed the rules, so feel free to correct me and/or disqualify this answer. I’m not sure if you wanted us to specify a destination in each state, so I didn’t. Also, I have quite a bit of backtracking, around 10 miles worth twice. But, it’s only 23:10. It includes DC. http://goo.gl/maps/KFWu

  7. Here is a route touching 18 states and excluding D.C. The trip takes 23h 49min.


    1-Kittery, ME
    2-Seabrook, NH
    3-Boston, MA
    4-Cranston, RI
    5-Stamford, CT
    6-Eastchester, Bronx, New York, NY
    7-Fort Lee, NJ
    8-Linwood, PA
    9-Claymont, DE
    10-Cumberland, MD
    11-Huntington, WV
    12-Chesapeake, OH
    13-Ulysses, KY
    14-Weber City, VA
    15-Johnson City, TN
    16-Woodfin, NC
    17-Greenville, SC
    18-Lavonia, GA

    1. I came up with an almost identical route, except passing through D.C. for a total of 19.
      If you take out some of the stops and really microscopically adjust a few points (Feltonville PA for Linwood, and place names instead of city names at the start and end) you can squeeze it down to 23:55
      Chickering Creek, Kittery ME
      Wyoming, RI
      Feltonville, PA
      Washington DC
      Chesapeake, OH
      Woodfin, NC
      New Light Cemetery, Hart, GA

  8. We’ve got 15 european countries in 23:53 hours, within all the rules (I think): Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland. I tried to make it to Ukraine too, but it’s just to far as far as I can tell. http://goo.gl/maps/QdXE

  9. It’s amazing how convergent evolution is alive and well in Europe. Here is my 15 countries in 23:45 route that is so simular to Mike and Josh that I can hardly be bothered to post it but here you go: http://goo.gl/maps/ohGL

    Another route I tried was to visit all five micro states on mainland Europe which you can just about do in 23:51. This leaves just 9 mins to log on to the 12 Mile Circle site from San Marino so it can finally be added to Howder’s hit list! http://goo.gl/maps/31hC


  10. Matty, try using the Texas FM roads and tiny town of Texline NW of Dalhart. That will gain you a lot of time. Perhaps it’s enough to stretch out to Nebraska within 24 hours. I know from experience that there are few communities out there. You might have to force things with lat-long coordinates or other Google Maps voodoo.

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