Gas has gotten so expensive that taking a vacation in the family truckster feels silly—at those prices, why not just fly? It’s faster anyway.
But now, with gas prices lower than they were a year ago, driving is probably more cost-effective than you’d think—as demonstrated in this series of visualizations by Howmuch.net, highlighted by Randy Olson. They’re radial heat maps that show how far $50 will get you from one of 35 U.S. cities, with your range ripping out from the city like an inverted bullseye. The dark green bits are what you want. They’re your maximum range for a one-way trip, assuming your vehicle gets 24 MPG.
Not a complicated visualization, but for the road warrior, it’s a completely different way of looking at your country and your summer vacation. If your goal is setting foot in the most states, your best bet is to live in the midwest. From Cincinnati, you can reach 27 different states, plus a bit of Canada. Meanwhile, if it’s coastline you want, there are a handful of cities with $50 access you may never expect: Cincinnati is on the list again, plus Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Detroit, and, not to be forgotten, Atlanta, which for $30 can get you to the coast, and for $50 will take you to New Orleans through most of Florida all the way up to the tip of Maryland (though we suspect you must have to take a ferry for the last stretch).
It’s all enough to make you hungry for a road trip. Meanwhile, I can’t help but wonder: if car travel became even cheaper thanks to a nationwide network of electric charging stations, could the golden age of the station wagons and National Parks return?