A road trip is a journey via automobile, sometimes unplanned or impromptu, or a journey involving sporting game(s) away from home, thus encompassing any journey by automobile, regardless of stops en route.
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The first recorded road trip was attested in stele in the court of Ramses II. He was said to "come down on the Medeans in his chariot after driving allnight from Memphis." Road trips were important throughout antiquity. Alexander's march into India was described by the historian Nearchus. During the Roman Republic, it was not uncommon for young patrician men to gather together to tour the Roman world. Jung even identified the Road trip as a persistent element of human culture.
Although the modern road trip can trace its roots to post-WWII America, road tripping in general began long before The Great War.
The first successful North American transcontinental trip by automobile took place in 1903, and was piloted by H. Nelson Jackson, Sewall Crocker, and a canine by the name of Bud. The trip was completed using a 1903 Winton Touring Car, dubbed “Vermont” by Jackson. The trip took a total of 63 days between San Francisco and New York, and cost US$8,000. The total cost included items such as food, gasoline, lodging, tires, parts, other supplies, and the cost of the Winton.
Although many would make the trip after 1903, the first woman to cross the American landscape by car was Alice Ramsey and 3 women passengers in 1909. Ramsey left from Hell's Gate in Manhattan, New York and traveled 59 days to San Francisco, California. Ramsey was followed in 1910 by Blanche Stuart Scott, who is often mistakenly cited as the first woman to make the cross-country journey by automobile East-to-West (but was a true pioneer in aviation).
New highways in the early 1900’s helped propel automobile travel, primarily cross-country travel. Commissioned in 1926, and completely paved near the end of the 1930’s, U.S. Route 66 is a living icon of early modern road tripping.
Motorists ventured cross-country for holiday as well as migrating to California and other locations. The modern road trip began to take shape in the late 1930’s and into the 1940’s, ushering in an era of a nation on the move.
Today, modern road tripping is a fast growing hobby, and not just a means of vacationing. Groups dedicated to the art of the road trip, known either as professional road trippers or road enthusiasts, are becoming prevalent online.
Road tripping, to some, has indeed become an art. Road enthusiasts frequently debate on proper gear, attire, and electronics. Other frequent debates include type of road trip (a ‘moseying’ road trip vs. a set schedule), use of in-vehicle DVD players to pacify young passengers, and, to a lesser extent, destinations.
Professional road tripping has spawned other activities, including dashboarding, caravanning (multi-vehicle road trips), RV-ing, county collecting, welcome sign photography, and other facets of the road tripping hobby.