Capitols & churches: the traveling salesman problem

50 states in 8 days mapBy Gary Flanagan

What is the most efficient path to all fifty states? Any discussion of this type of geography puzzle will likely lead to solving the traveling salesman problem, a dilemma that has baffled many an individual, company and computer. Allow me to take you on a few cross country journeys to map-routing nirvana.

To begin, we must take on the persona of a salesperson selling their wares across multiple locations in different cities. This salesperson happens to call on a computer scientist to sell a vacuum cleaner and after declining the offer, the scientist asks about the miles traveled in the course of a day. He soon discovers that there must be a better, more efficient way of routing the path.Beginning of 50 states in 8 days trip 2003

Decades later, mega computers and the almighty Google Maps struggle to provide realistic solutions to similar challenges. Go ahead and google the “traveling salesman problem” and how to visit the 48 continental states in one trip. A single answer does not lie in the multitude of results.

Practice, practice, practice. Study the road maps. Try different scenarios. I have and will share my results in the coming weeks in this column. Three different 50 state trips were completed since 2001. A family trip in 43 days, a father/son trip in eight days and 20 minutes, and a tour of capitol buildings and churches in all 51 capitals. Each and every city was unique and challenging when trying to visit them in the most efficient path possible.

Please make an attempt to answer the question at the beginning of the article. Google to your hearts content. Then, as I take you on my personal journey, we can compare results and find that nirvana of map routing and the best TSP solution.End of 50 States in 8 days trip

One Comment

  1. This column will review the literal separation between church and state by determining the physical and chronological distance between each state capitol and it’s closest churches.

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