Going Somewhere

I’ll put it up front:

This is a travel blog.

Yes, I know there are a godzillion travel blogs out there, but mine’s unique: it’s mine.

Since July 1, 2010, I’ve been to more places than I used to visit in a decade. I expect this trend to continue.

I have a few travel goals: I want to see more foreign countries. Here at home in the US, I want to visit every microbrewery (yes, every single one of them). I want to take the Trans-Siberian Railway from Vladivostok to Moscow, and continue on trains all the way to Portugal. I want to take a riverboat cruise of eastern Europe.

But the trip I’m working on now involves driving across the United States, from the easternmost to westernmost points in the contiguous 48 states (sorry, Alaska and Hawaii – you’re going to have to wait).

And because I can’t make it too easy on myself, I’m going to do this in the late fall – and I’m going to avoid interstates.

You can’t see America from an interstate.

The first step (the one without which no journey can follow) for me was to figure out exactly where each of these points are.

The easternmost point was easy: a little spit of land on the coast of Maine, called Quoddy Head State Park. The westernmost point wasn’t as straightforward; as it turns out, there are a few candidates, mostly in Washington State, and which one wins depends on tides, global warming, and opinion. I based this destination on the Great Oracle, Wikipedia: Cape Alava, near Odette, Washington.

The second part was to connect the two points with a straight line. Of course, the direct route between two points that are any significant distance apart on the globe (yes, dear readers – the Earth is not flat; sorry) isn’t a straight line, unless your reference frame involves spherical geometry. It’s what navigators call a Great Circle route – the arc on the sphere that connects the two points and has the center of the Earth as its focus.

Such a route would be about (or should I say “aboot?”) 90% in Canada, eh?

Now that I’ve alienated any Canadian readers, let me say I love Canada. I was in Vancouver just last year, and enjoyed it very much. I’ve been to Toronto and Niagara Falls. Granted, that’s not much of Canada, but I think it’s a pretty cool place. Five stars. Would visit again. It’s just that my goal on this trip is to see the US, y’know?

So, any route meeting those criteria would pretty much have to stick to the roads south of the border.

I dismissed a simple “hug the border and those inconveniently-placed lakes” solution as “too easy,” and went to this website for some randomness.

The path I developed is easier to follow than it is to explain, but basically, I took the starting point, picked a reference point some distance toward the destination (moving that point south to the border or lake edge if necessary), generated a random point some smaller distance from that reference point (discarding any points that were north of the border or wet), and found the closest accessible place to that point. The random point then became a new starting point.

The net result of this is something like a random path across the northern US, trending west. (I’m starting in the east because I live on the East Coast).

So where, exactly, will this take us? Stay tuned…


About Waltz

An international man of mystery, Waltz is a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. Kind of a puzzle burrito, actually. With conundrum cheese and secret sauce. And a side of Riddle Rice.

Posted on October 16, 2011, in Travel. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I guess I need to make plans to open a microbrewery.

  2. This is a cool idea; I am looking forward to seeing the US through your eyes. Don’t drink much anymore, so the breweries are all yours! I wish you good travels and lots of fun!

    Best to you!
    jennyj (jajenson@gmail.com)

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