From The Beginning
Since there are quite a few posts planned for this “Road Trip” series, it seems appropriate to include a bit of history for the topic.
Humans have been doing road trips since before there were the types of roads you’d drive on with your car, RV or exhibition semi-trailer truck. An example of this is the Silk Road that Marco Polo took on his road trips from Europe to Asia.
A few other people who went on road trips long ago were:
- Leif Erikson “discovered” North America when he was blown off course on a road trip to take Christianity to Greenland.
- Cristoforo Colombo also “discovered” North America when he was on his way to get a load of spices from the East Indies.
- Voyageurs, mountain men and pioneers went on countless road trips west during the American frontier movement.
- Nomads of the world including Mongols, who regularly went on road trips with all their belongings, Bedouins and Tuareg, who traveled the deserts of northern Africa, and Irish Travellers, or Tinkers, who traveled from Ireland to America, then continued their nomadic lifestyle. (Digital nomads may appear later in this series…).
- Johnny Appleseed, who went on road trips to plant apple tree nurseries in five US states and Canada.
- Miners and merchants in the two big North American Gold Rushes, the Klondike Gold Rush and the California Gold Rush, which significantly helped develop those two areas.
Road Trips In Motor Vehicles
In more modern times, with motorized vehicles, the first true road trip was made when a woman took her husband’s car out for a long trip without telling him.
“The world’s first recorded long distance road trip by automobile took place in Germany in August 1888 when Bertha Benz, the wife of Karl Benz, the inventor of the first patented motor car (the Benz Patent-Motorwagen), travelled from Mannheim to Pforzheim (a distance of 106 km (66 mi)) in the third experimental Benz motor car (which had a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour (16 km/h)) and back, with her two teenage sons Richard and Eugen, but without the consent and knowledge of her husband. Her official reason was that she wanted to visit her mother but unofficially she intended to generate publicity for her husband’s invention.”
Maybe I can get Mercedes-Benz to sponsor a road trip event involving one of their latest vehicles which is ideal for a high class road trip, like one used for the Airstream Interstate Grand Tour EXT.
The Great American Road Trip has an extended history as roads were paved across the country in the 1930s and 1940s, with the classic trip being US Route 66 from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California, USA. The mobility of the American family was kicked up another notch by all the soldiers who returned from WWII with a wider view of the world, and the Interstate Highway system rolled out in the 1950s made it easy to travel pretty much anywhere in the USA. In addition to Route 66, two other classic road trip options are US Route 1 from Fort Kent, Maine, to Key West, Florida, USA, and US Route 101 from Los Angeles, California, to Tumwater, Washington, USA.
Personal History of Road Trips
My personal history of road trips began at an early age, because our family was one of those who packed up the kids in a car and did summer camping vacations around the USA and Canada. A few of our family road trips were:
- Michigan to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, with many stops along the way.
- Great Circle Trip around Lake Superior, traveling with noseeums, mosquitos, horseflies and a few other insects.
- Grand Rapids, Michigan, to the Great Smoky Mountains, for backpacking, as well as ruby and sapphire mining.
- Grand Rapids, Michigan, to countless campgrounds in the Midwest and Canada, enjoying the outdoors and looking for agates and other interesting rocks.
Having caught the road trip bug from my parents, I continued the tradition without the family:
Grand Rapids, Michigan, to West Palm Beach, Florida.
- Grand Rapids, Michigan, to San Diego, California, then up to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, then back to Michigan, over a period of four months.
- Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Houghton, Michigan, to go to college; that 500 mile trip was probably made at least 30 times.
- Houghton, Michigan, to New Orleans, Louisiana, for a friend’s wedding.
- Detroit, Michigan, to Lake Placid, New York.
- Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Freeport, Maine, to visit LLBean and lots of campgrounds along the way.
- Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Glacier National Park, to Pacific Rim National Park in British Columbia, to Seattle, Washington, to Wisconsin, Rapids, Wisconsin, for my honeymoon.
- Four trips from Appleton, Wisconsin, to Vieux Québec, Québec, Canada with my daughter, so she could speak French when she was in high school.
- Appleton, Wisconsin, to Tucson, Arizona, with my son so he could enjoy the 115 degree dry heat of the American desert.
- Appleton, Wisconsin, to San Francisco, California, to help a friend move out there to work in the tech industry.
I went on too many more road trips to list them all. A few of my road trips were powered by my thumb. Three events on hitch-hiking trips that stand out are:
- As a college student, a family of four picked me up, and I sat in back with the two pre-teen kids, sharing their chocolate chip cookies.
- When hitchhiking 500 miles from Detroit, Michigan, to Houghton, Michigan, a Corvette driver in the Detroit area stopped to talk to me because he was incredulous that I’d hitchhike 500 miles. He just didn’t believe me.
- I caught three good rides from Cheboygan, Michigan, to Detroit, Michigan, and made the 250 mile trip faster than if I would have driven myself.
One memorable trip was by bus, rather than by car, when I visited my daughter in northern California, then went to a National Science Foundation conference. That trip took me from Appleton, Wisconsin, to Arcata, California, to Washington, DC, and then back to Appleton, Wisconsin. That was a very interesting road trip…
As you can see, I enjoy road trips and have quite a history of them.
At this point, you’re probably asking yourself why I wrote this post about the history of road trips. Well, here are several reasons:
- Road trips have a long, interesting, and impactful history, and some road trips have changed history.
- Events related to road trips involve a certain amount of event wrangling, usually a lot more than just travel details.
- I’ve done enough road trips that I know I love them and will be doing them for many more years.
- I look forward to being an Automattic Events Wrangler and doing high impact road trip events for them, in addition to going on road trips while doing the remote work aspects of my job which don’t require me being at the site of the events I’m wrangling.
There’s no knowing where life’s Journey will take me, but I’ll do my best to enjoy the trip. It truly is the journey, not the destination.
Yol bolsun! May there be a road…
Posts in this Road Trip Events series:
“Road Trip Events, Part 2: History” — Today’s post