Today was Candy’s birthday and, along with some friends that have done it before, we decided to celebrate with a Segway tour in downtown Dallas.
My first impression of the idea was a little iffy. I would rather have ridden my bike around downtown (as I am wont to do) than stand there lazily on two electric-powered wheels. Plus, I’ve seen these groups of touristy-looking folks, wearing helmets and standing stiffly on the slow-moving vehicles, moving in a line along the downtown sidewalks. It looked rather silly to me.
Well, I thought about it and realized that, as usual, I was full of shit. Let’s face it, everyone wants to at least try out a Segway and see how it is. I remember the crazy hype back in 2001 when the thing (code name “Ginger”) was introduced and, although it could never live up to its promotion, it still made an impression. All in all, it had to be fun.
There are a couple companies that offer Segway tours, and we chose one based on… well, we had a Groupon.
Candy and I had gone to our third Dallas Savor Wine Tour yesterday and then gone to Lee Harvey’s for a Naked Lunch concert last night and stayed out too late. When I crawled out of bed – too early for a Saturday – I didn’t feel too well. I’m getting too old. But I gutted it out and we drove downtown to the Segway place – in a cool old brick building.
We had a few minutes of lessons, a quick pep talk, then off we went.
That might be the most amazing thing about the Segway – how easy it is to learn. After all, this is a completely unique and new transportation form. It has no controls at all – only a platform to stand on and a stick with a handle. There is no seat or restraint – you just stand there. Still, after only a minute of practice, we were off along the streets and sidewalks of a big city. We had to maneuver along narrow twisting paths, through curb cuts, and over precarious routes along concrete dropoffs.
It was a piece of cake. The only difficulty I had was that, at first, I stood too stiffly and my feet and ankles were painful and cramping. After a bit I was able to relax and flex better and it became comfortable.
I was surprised at how far the tour went. We started out on the edge of the West End area (near the bus station) and headed out to the famous bronze steer sculpture and City Hall, then north clear through the heart of downtown. We visited the Arts District and then on to Klyde Warren where we took a break. Finally we rode west to visit Dealey Plaza before heading back.
That’s a complete tour of downtown.
The Segway is a great way to tour an area. You cover a lot more distance than you can walking, of course. You see so much more than in a bus or car tour. I’ll give it a nod even over a bicycle because you are able to keep your head up and look around while you ride.
The last leg of the tour was a blast. By then I was very comfortable on the machine and was able to enjoy myself – doing a bit of slalom between landscape trees along a stretch of sidewalk, swinging around in close spaces, or simply picking up the speed (a little bit). It’s an odd experience – the key to comfortably riding a Segway is to forget you are on one and let your instincts take over. I really can’t tell you how to go forward or backward, how to stop or turn – you just do.
Most of the people in the tour were not from Dallas and I asked them if they thought the Segway Tour was a good way to see a new city and they all were enthusiastic.
So, the next time you visit someplace or even revisit the place where you live – check out and see if a Segway Tour is available. Do it if you can. It doesn’t look as silly when you are in the bowels of the thing than it does from outside looking in.