Archive for April 22nd, 2009

Traveling the Lower 48

April 22, 2009

I just started reading The English Major by Jim Harrison.  It’s about Cliff, a retired high school teacher and farmer, whose wife has just left him.  He  decides to travel to the lower 48 states in the US using a puzzle as a  guide.

US Map

He starts in Michigan, then goes to Wisconsin, and in Minnesota he hooks up with a former student of his, Marybelle,who decides to ride with him through North Dakota to Montana. At this point Cliff relates:

After breakfast in Wahpeton and before she fell asleep Marybelle had said it would be nice to do some north and south zigzagging on the way to Bozeman.  I didn’t say anything but this distressed me as I had intended to enter and exit each state exactly once.

When I read this, I was immediately distracted by the question of whether or not that was even possible.

As a follow up question, if Cliff had started anywhere he wanted instead of his hometown, how close could he end to where he started?

For reference here’s a map of the United States, with Hawai‘i and Alaska conveniently resized and located in Mexico. Click for a bigger version.