Friday, July 4, 2008

What's A Segway?

Oh, about two pounds, I said to my son Dave on the phone. It took a moment before he remembered the told joke about a "what's a hen-way?" We traveled to Richmond for the 4th of July weekend to visit my son and his wife and the highlight of our trip would be a tour of downtown Richmond on Segway machines.

The Segway looks like an animal from the Stars Wars movie, and kinda acts like one also, with a little bit of intelligence of its own. This two wheeled vehicle is on a self balancing platform, has a stick you put your hands on to steer left or right. To make the Segway move forward or backward, you simply lean in the direction you want to go. The dang thing goes 12.5 miles per hour -- four times the average walking speed!
Was it easy to ride? Well, 12 of us required around 15 minutes get used to moving on it. The photo above is about the only "hands-on" training Rita received. Still, the 19 year old tour guide did say ominously say "you will go down" if you hit a curb the wrong way.
Our tour was to last 2.5 hours and cover a pretty good chunk of the old town of Richmond, stopping (briefly usually) at some historic sites. The tour was conducted by two young Virginians, one a very recent political science major with streaks of purple in her otherwise brunette hair, and the other a 19 year old enthusiastic young man of undetermined educational background or intellectual capacity.
Riding on the Segway looks weird as one does not move arms or legs. Instead you glide along kinda "ghost like" (I am thinking of the scene in Poltergeist of the ghosts gliding down the stairs.) After a short period of adjustment, you can feel pretty comfortable standing on the platform. A little lean forward or back and you are moving. In fact, you perform such "little" movements that I started to feel the machine was 'intuitively" guided.
I was feeling "oneness" with the machine (which I was now imagining it to be a other-world beast) when disaster struck. I hit an uneven spot of pavement and then lost control. One wheel began to spin while the other did not. Spinning wildly, the machine had had enough of our oneness and was now determined to discard me.
Discard me it did. Off I went, falling on my left side I did my utmost to fall "well" on the concrete. One knee struck the ground and I flopped like a fish. I had not raised my hands to protect my head, opting to protect my lower body and articifial knees. Consequently, the side of my face struck the concrete -- stunning me for a moment.
I was surrounded by help at that point -- the fall must have looked pretty horrific -- but most of the riders stayed on their Segways -- dismounting from them is a skill to be learned and they saw what happened when one of the Segways feels taken for granted.
My left knee was nicely scraped and I had banged my head during the flop, but other than that there was no damage. The young tour guides had a "first aid" kit without much first aid in it but there was a band aid to cover the scraped knee.
After collecting myself, I got back on the Segway a bit more cautiously now. The tour was in its last 45 minutes or so and I thought I could finish it up in fine fashion. And finish we did, but I must say I now was a bit less confident and certainly more wary whenever we approached curb lips or even slight bumps in the road.
At the end of the two and a half hours, I was tired and still a bit shaken by the accident. We did see Richmond in a much more personal way and as long as we respected the beast, the Segway was a lot of fun!
By the way, the rest of our party -- Dave, his wife Stacey, and my paramour, Rita all stayed aboard their Segways throughout the tour! I was one of only three people to take a tumble -- the other two were over-confident males also, I'll bet.

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