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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The route cannot be manipulated manually. Google Maps allows one to create intermediary points between destinations. Those are not allowed for this exercise.
- 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.
- 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.