Just over the state border between Vermont and New Hampshire, three young men pull out their cameras and point them towards the “Welcome to Vermont” marker, get in their rental car, and start a timer. Five days, 13 hours, and several minutes later, their plane touches down in Hawaii, the entire plane applauds, and the timer stops.
Roadtripping is a quintessential American activity, an adventure that offers complete freedom and a tangible awareness of this vast and diverse country. Spending time in every state is a goal for many seasoned travelers, but for Peter McConville, Pavel Krechetov, and Abdullahi Salah, visiting each state in North America wasn’t the only objective. For them it was also a question of pace.
“I’ve always wanted to break a world record,” says McConville, who is adept at tests of endurance, all captured on his YouTube channel. “I woke up one morning with this idea in my head, and I looked up how fast all 50 states had been visited before.” From there, plans for the fastest visit to all 50 states began to unfold.
In order to traverse all 50 states faster than anyone in the world, McConville, Krechetov, and Salah created an essential packing list. They needed dependable, sleep-resistant friends, a solid plan that timed out everything from showers to gas station stops, cameras, and a timer.
Anyone who’s spent longer than five hours in a car knows the importance of the first item on the checklist, but this trio took it to an extreme. There would be no pulling over to sleep on this journey, which meant each gas station break, every filming stop, and monument viewings were accomplished by a team who’d slept very little and spent days locked in a tiny space. Lifelong friendships can be forged by fire, but if there isn’t any available, an every-state road trip with a time limit should do the trick.
The journey began on the border between Vermont and New Hampshire, and then the route wound through New England and moved south. In vertical strips, the car journeyed through every state. One driver, one sleeper, and one filmer (who moonlighted as entertainment for the driver). McConville, Krechetov, and Salah tilted cameras and captured footage via drones to catch state signs, the Blue Ridge Mountains, rolling farmland, and a whole lot of traffic.
“It wasn’t the best time to do this,” says McConville. “Gas prices and plane tickets are insane, but the experience was worth it.”
Imagine, for a moment, that you’re on your way to seeing at least a corner of every state in the union and want to pick a handful of activities. Perhaps you’d choose the ones you’ve always dreamed about visiting, the monumental landscapes that have astounded visitors for centuries. Or, maybe you’d pick the activities that were most directly on your route, knowing that life may never take you into that part of the country again. Add a time limit, and your decisions become even more critical.
For this trio, timing of excursions was meticulously budgeted into their plan. In order to beat the previous record (five days, 16 hours, and 20 minutes), some sacrifices had to be made. In the planning phases they’d discussed where they wanted to play tourist: Times Square, Chicago’s Bean (AKA the Cloud Gate), Grand Canyon National Park, Mount Rushmore, the Hoover Dam, the Las Vegas strip, and the Bonneville Salt Flats.
“With the limited time, anything we did had to be worth it,” McConville explains. “It was a conflict of how much time we had versus how much time do we wanted to have. We were driven to beat the record, but on the other hand, we knew we might never be in some of these places again.” More often than not, timing won.
But that didn’t stop them from making additional small detours. They met llamas on the side of the road, dug up the state marker in Texas with the owner of the land, and chatted with New York City cops.
And while they only showered once, were sleep deprived and giddy, and operated entirely without caffeine, they report that the trip was well worth the struggle.
“We’ve experienced something that very few other people will,” says McConville. “I did this with the right people. We saw so much of the country so quickly.” They connected with people along the way, made memories that transcended the fatigue, and were touched by the kindness of strangers — never more so than on their last leg of the journey.
From Washington the three flew to Alaska and, after a brief visit with the mountain views, boarded another plane to Hawaii. Word traveled fast, and as the plane touched down the flight attendants spoke over the intercom.
“We have three guys on board that have just completed the world record for the fastest time to travel to all 50 states,” the attendant announced. “They have traveled 7,200 miles, 120 hours in the car, and beat the current world record by three hours. We’d like to give them a big round of applause.”
While the world won’t see McConville, Krechetov, and Salah in the Guinness World Record book — since no driving-related awards have been recognized since the mid-90s for safety reasons — the trio don’t seem to mind.
“This was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” says McConville. Perhaps even the best. “I thought I was going to end up thinking that people should really slow down.” But while the completed video of their adventure does capture a desire to stay places longer, the urge to accomplish the enormous task won out. “Even being uncomfortable, sleep deprived, and all that, we were all so driven in wanting to break this world record,” he says. “At the end of the day, we had a lot of fun.”