- Segway tours provide ample opportunity to learn a city - and master the art of balance
Roll with it
Segway tours provide ample opportunity to learn a city—and master the art of balance
By Hope S. Philbrick
Add riding a Segway to the list of things that I’ll always take the opportunity to do. You should, too, if you can stand upright, have a decent sense of balance and a thirst for adventure—or simply want to ride around on a unique vehicle.
Not a skilled athlete, I wasn’t confident my first ride on the two-wheeled contraption would be smooth. I was in Savannah, Ga., and scheduled for a two-hour tour with Segway of Savannah. The training video, required viewing before handling a Segway, emphasizes the potential dangers and thus did little to alleviate nagging concerns. But Harry Green, owner of Segway of Savannah, offered encouragement and helpful guidance. Soon I was zooming back and forth on the sidewalk out front.
Or I should say that it felt like I was zooming. When taken to the parking lot out back, I was instructed to ride up a small hill—about a three-foot slope that could have been scaled on foot in two strides. “This is the biggest hill in Savannah,” the tour guide Patrick said. “Once you can climb this on the Segway, driving the rest of the tour will be easy.” Three times I rolled at what felt like top speed about halfway up and then stopped unexpectedly. I got stuck, because I wasn’t moving fast enough.
“Focus on the trees over there and not the hill,” said Patrick. A few more tries and I mastered it: The trick to riding a segway is not over-thinking it. About halfway through the tour, I discovered that I wasn’t thinking about the Segway at all: It seemed to disappear underneath my feet. I’d just envision reaching some specific spot around me, and I’d magically drift there. Amazing.
Savannah may be the ideal place for a Segway tour: The roads are flat, 22 green squares help limit the speed of traffic and drivers are accustomed to looking out for pedestrians and a diverse range of vehicles from horse-drawn carriages to bicycles. What’s more, the picturesque city boasts a fascinating history, various styles of architecture and interesting bits of trivia. Throughout the tour, Patrick, who has ties to the entertainment industry, detailed Savannah’s film past. “Our guides are all different individuals and have different interests in bringing out the best tour for their clients,” says Green, explaining that tours may follow the same route but vary in theme.
So enamored was I with my initial Segway experience that upon returning home to Atlanta, I scheduled a three-hour tour with City Segway Tours Atlanta. The two Segway tour companies are not affiliated, but both use the same initial training video and limit tour groups to eight people. I was glad that I’d already learned to ride, however, upon discovering that the training grounds in Atlanta were located upon a slope six times the size of Savannah’s largest hill. But the three first-time riders quickly mastered their Segways, perhaps proving a challenge does foster learning and that I am indeed a klutz.
I’ve lived in Atlanta for 12 years but learned a lot about the city’s history, architecture and education system during the tour. Of perhaps keener interest, it provided ample opportunity to maneuver the Segway. The route was extensive, covering more territory than I’d want to walk. Driving a Segway in Atlanta may seem intimidating, given that drivers here are more apt to talk on a cell phone than watch out for pedestrians and atypical vehicles, but the tour avoids major traffic routes. From the Capitol to Georgia Tech, along Peachtree Street, from Georgia State University to the Fox Theatre and the Varsity, tour guide Alice Jankowski shared interesting facts, legends and bits of trivia. “All our guides add a unique spin to the tours,” says Kristie Krabe Carter, city operations manager for City Segway Tours Atlanta. Various tour options are available and some, such as the Legends and Lore or Holiday Lights tours, are seasonal. SP
Segway of Savannah