The Original Road Tripper!

The Original Road Tripper!

Posted on July 19 by admin
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Can you do Italy and back in a few hours?

I don’t think so but if you live in downtown Toronto, especially in the St. Lawrence Market area there is always something happening that makes you think you are on a road trip!

Last Friday I strolled along Front Street and came upon two wonderful old cars, (I think the white one is a Fiat and the blue one is a Citroen), and an Italian cafe street scene! Okay, it was for a commercial but there was a brief excitement in knowing that you can leave the city for somewhere exotic by walking down the street.

Everyone has a great story or memory about going on a road trip but the very first road trip was planned for and taken by a woman just to show it could be done.

Carl Benz in Germany had been working on a self-contained automobile since 1884. Despite the many test drives without much in the way of recognition or financial success, he just couldn’t get it to market.

By 1888 his wife Bertha had had enough and decided to sensationalize her husband’s invention with a little marketing stunt of her own. She recruited their two teen age sons to help because she knew there would be trouble on the drive. That peppy 0.88-horsepower engine was a little underpowered, to say the least, and would need to be pushed up some of the steeper hills!

The three departed at 5 a.m. on a peaceful August morning from Mannheim on their way to Pforzheim to visit family-over 100 kms.

So what was the first road trip like? Top speed was probably about 10 mph — on the downhill stretches. They would have had to stop about every 15 or 20 miles for gas, purchasing bottles of benzine, also known as ligroin, that was usually available from pharmacies.

The trio had to ask local shoemakers to replace the leather brake shoe linings from time to time. The leather belt connecting the engine to the differential also needed tightening. Frau Benz even had to plug a leaky valve with one of her garters and sometimes used hairpins to unstick clogged valves.

Despite the challenges, the Benz’s reached Pforzheim that evening, in the dark. They stayed there a few days, giving the young Benz boys the chance to show off their father’s car. The three then returned by a different, more level, route.

So have your one road trip adventure this summer and remember to raise a glass (after your reach your destination!) to Bertha Benz, the original road tripper.