Trying the All-American state-by-state challenge

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 21, 2001

Not long ago I read about one American who was trying to visit the highest elevation in each state.

Friday, September 21, 2001

Not long ago I read about one American who was trying to visit the highest elevation in each state. These altitude challenges range from Rhode Island’s Jerimoth Hill (812 feet) to Minnesota’s Eagle Mountain (2,301 feet and up in Cook County) to California’s Mt. Whitney (14,491 feet).

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This reminded me of a challenge I once devised to see just how many miles would be involved with a travel route which would actually include all 48 contiguous states. (Contiguous is a fancy way to exclude Alaska and Hawaii.) To do this one could use a vehicle, or a marking pen, a large map of the nation, and maybe even an atlas.

This challenge involves some definite rules, Here are the ones I used for a mythical and extremely economical trip around our nation.

First, the real challenge is to touch all 48 states, plus the District of Columbia, by using the least amount of mileage.

Second, the entry and exit point for each state has to be different.

Third, this mythical trip had to be made on solid pavements and bridges as shown on a standard map or atlas. This rules out any ferry boat rides.

Fourth, at least one locality with a zip code in each state has to be included on this fast, no-expense trip.

Fifth, backtracking isn’t needed, and the routing should be done in a clockwise direction. Clockwise, incidentally, is the direction the hands went on timepieces before the advent of all those devices with digital readouts.

Now, let’s start off with a quick summary of the routing I once devised for this trip around the nation with an atlas.

Starting off in this part of Minnesota, the routing is through Iowa to Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and up to a place named New Buffalo, Mich. (49117). Then it’s back into Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and a great state which is part of my Irish and Swiss-German heritage, Pennsylvania.

Next on the itinerary is New York, followed by Vermont, New Hampshire, a short jaunt into Maine, and back into New Hampshire. Then it’s on to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York again, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

Virginia is traversed for a second time, followed by North Carolina, South Carolina, north Georgia, Alabama, plus a few miles in Florida near Pensacola, back into Alabama, and on to Mississippi.

There, that takes care of the states east of the Mississippi River. Also, please note how one could avoid too much mileage in Michigan, Maine, and Florida.

Next on the agenda is Louisiana and on to the city of Texarkana which is a part of both Arkansas and Texas. And right here the whole state of Texas is taken care of. To the north via Arkansas is the town of Westville (74965), which also takes care of Oklahoma, Then it’s back into Missouri to Nebraska and the small Nebraska locality of Falls City.

Kansas is the logical route of choice to New Mexico, up into Colorado, over into Utah, and south into Arizona. For California, just one town, Needles (92363) will do before an imaginary visit is made to Las Vegas.

The route I set up for this challenge goes north through Nevada to south Idaho to the Oregon city of Ontario (97914) and back into Idaho. Washington (the state) can be taken care of with the college city of Pullman. Then the route goes over the Lolo Pass into Montana. This is followed with a route into Wyoming via Yellowstone National Park and Cody back into Montana to the North Dakota towns of Bowman (58623) and Hettinger (58639).

All that’s left of the contiguous states is South Dakota and I-90 back to this area.

According to my calculations, this particular challenge could be completed with 8,778 miles.

We have one more of these national map challenges left for a future column subject.

Feature writer Ed Shannon’s column appears Fridays in the Tribune.