It's kind of like a random encounter table but with more driving and fewer monsters.
May 5, 2010 2:20 PM   Subscribe

Any ideas for randomly generating a road trip?

So I've got it in my head that a road trip with each turn decided by dice rolls or coin flips on the fly might be fun. I would like this trip to take me a good distance, show me some new things that I wouldn't have seen otherwise, etc, etc. What are some good ideas for rules and systems that would make a good trip?

Here are a few ideas I've thought of so far:

- roll a d4 to determine initial north, south, east, west when leaving town.
- roll a d4 at major intersections/exits to determine go left, go right, go forward, or stop at the nearest town and do something fun.
- if the trip nears something interesting or boring, the dice results can be vetoed in favor of going to or avoiding the location.
- backtracking prevention: if going west any die roll that would send you east is ignored for the next two rolls

As you can tell this idea is still in its infancy. I'm sure you guys can come up with some good ideas.
posted by cirrostratus to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
i've tried this and it's not quite as much fun as it sounds. more interesting, i think, if you have access to a GPS:

generate a random set of long/lat coordinates bounded by two circles centred on your house (with radii, say 50 and 200 km). Now figure out how to get there and keep your eye out for interesting things to do along the way.
posted by 256 at 2:27 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know, it seems like your approach is too centered on navigation. You'd get bogged down at every turn, unless you generate a route automatically, and even then there might be problems. I'd rather look up an interesting geocache on and go there via a direct route. An interesting geocache could be chosen at random, or based on some sort of an algorithm.

Another thing to try would be geohashing, which generates GPS coordinates based on a couple of seed values.
posted by aeighty at 2:27 PM on May 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

For interesting/boring get out clauses you can add some other rules. One my wife and I have when taking road trips is that if we see something advertised as the (Somewhere's) (Superlative) (Noun) we're doing it. This has led me to attempt to consume the World's Largest Chicken Fried Steak, to see the World's Smallest Horse, etc. I've also had a lot of shitty Craphole-town's Best Hamburgers though.
posted by IanMorr at 2:29 PM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Dart board and a map? The trick would be planning a scenic route between A -> B. You have to stop at X number of roadside attractions.
posted by unixrat at 2:29 PM on May 5, 2010

Best answer: Argh, didn't mean to post so early.

You could 3D6 the entrances to places. Go - No go? See what the dice say!

This way you could weight each stop ahead of time with your interest level. Something you're interested in would get a better chance than something that looks like crap, BUT you'd wind up seeing some of the crap ones and passing on what you think might be interesting.
posted by unixrat at 2:32 PM on May 5, 2010

Not saying that the crap places would really be crap. Some of my favorite traveling memories were in places that I originally didn't want to go.
posted by unixrat at 2:32 PM on May 5, 2010

Response by poster: This way you could weight each stop ahead of time with your interest level.

This sounds like a good idea. Maybe we'll bring a bunch of different dice and determine the parameters of each roll so we can weight things we want to do. You need to roll a 1 on a d20 in order to stop at the worlds largest frying pan in Brandon, IA.

Good idea with the geocaching, aeighty. It would add a nice goal to things and add an excuse to get out of the car and walk around.

I originally had something algorithmic in mind because I want to roll dice during the trip so that it is unplanned at the start, and also it'll give us something to do while driving. However maybe everyone's suggestions about picking a random location and just going there might be more fun in the long run.
posted by cirrostratus at 3:14 PM on May 5, 2010

Not quite what you're after, but perhaps this'll do when you get somewhere big and crowded: Try to do something you frequently do at home that's not quite as banal as running an errand (although running errands in a strange town is fun!), but isn't as epic as visiting the local Art Museum (do that, too, if Art Musems are your thing!).

For me this has meant visiting used book stores or music stores, or attending whatever car show or craft fair that happens to be going on, or collecting hard to find ingredients for an ethnic dinner. The book and ingredient hunts take me out of the Starbuckses and so on and force me to ask around a bit. After that, you never know what you'll find next door, in the neighborhood, and on the way.
posted by notyou at 3:59 PM on May 5, 2010

I had an interesting dice based system for you but the more I looked at it the more "meh" I felt about it.

That's OK. I have a better idea: MetaFilter tells you where to go!

Announce when you are doing it in a project thread and that on the day of you will be seeking periodic orders from the hivemind. When you are ready to set out put up an ask me for a initial direction / first turning point / whatever and we tell you where to go. You either take the first suggestion (if you're feeling brave) or pick from the first N suggestions (if you're not).

After you get there you ask for your next coordinate. Repeat. Heavy documentation via some flavor of semi-live blogging is de rigueur. It would be like all of MetaFilter goes on a telepresence road trip.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:33 PM on May 5, 2010

Best answer: If you simply follow a strategy of "choose the most interesting-looking direction" at every intersection, you'll theoretically end up at places that are local maxima of interest to you (this is essentially gradient descent optimization). For decisions where all options seem equally uninteresting, you can come up with a secondary decision-making technique (rolling dice, if you want), or just go with your gut (probably easier). Once you're done enjoying a given local maximum, just choose a random direction and head that way for a while to reset your search. I've found that this is a great way to explore cities.
posted by caaaaaam at 5:40 PM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Use the Roadside America website or App to determine your next destination (with a "no backtracking" rule).
posted by benzenedream at 6:09 PM on May 5, 2010

Response by poster: caaaaam: your strategy is brilliant in it's simplicity. I think I better supplement some of the randomness for just choosing the most awesome option.
posted by cirrostratus at 7:00 PM on May 5, 2010

Depends how long you have, but I've used this strategy before: pick a destination that's a few days' drive from where you are. Get in the car. Try to figure out how to get there without maps. You'll end up in a lot of random places.
posted by one_bean at 9:00 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Second the Roadside America recommendation. Don't be a slave to it, but let it help weight your decisions and find you interesting stuff "nearby" as you go.
posted by DaveP at 8:22 AM on May 6, 2010

« Older Sign me, I hate insurance.   |   Help me choose a name for my Etsy store. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.