Trivia

Hard

The First Automobile Road Trip Was Through?

Upstate New York
Wales
The Florida Keys
German Wine Country
A photo of Bertha Benz, circa 1870-1872.
Dr. Carl Benz (Automuseum, Ladenburg)/Wikimedia

Answer: German Wine Country

It’s a curious thing to think about (because today we take the idea of long-distance automotive travel for granted), but like all technological progress, there had to be a first time when it came to distance driving. Just like air travel made a jump from getting a plane to glide a few hundred feet to actually flying somewhere useful with it, the same leap occurred with cars.

For that, we can thank Bertha Benz, wife of Karl Benz—the holder of the first patent for an automobile designed to produce its own power and the namesake behind the famous Mercedes-Benz automotive company. Karl was a brilliant inventor, but terrible at seeing beyond the inventions. Bertha knew that there would be no demand for his design if it wasn’t proven and publicized. To that end, she and their two teenage sons hijacked Karl’s Patent-Motorwagen No. 3 prototype and drove it on a long country road trip to see her mother in Bertha’s home town. The trip took them from their home in Mannheim, Germany to her home town of Pforzheim, Germany and back. The total trip was approximately 121 miles (194 kilometers) with a variation in the two legs since she took an alternative return route that avoided some steep mountain climbs.

Not only was the trip the first ever automotive road trip and a rousing success—the trip showed off the car, got the company in the press, and helped troubleshoot and improve the design—but her route planning was impeccable. The routes she took to and from her home town went through the beautiful German wine region of Baden and are still there. Motorists with an interest in automotive history and scenic views can take the Bertha Benz Memorial Route around southwest Germany to this day.

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