One of the activities I was slated to try during our Blue Mountain retreat was a Segway tour. By now, everyone knows I ride one of these bad boys around town when I’m at home, so the idea of riding a Segway didn’t seem so far off the mark for a lady like me to try.
The thing is, it’s a bit like the difference between riding a bicycle on a sidewalk VS doing a BMX tour down a mountain. Okay, not exactly… but it is a bit like getting a piggy-back ride on R2D2. I tried petting my Segway and I whispered to it lovingly, reminded it that I have trust-issues, and to please be kind to me.
Me: Segway, you’re so handsome… let’s just go easy at first, okay? I’m fine with experimenting, but… I’m new at this, so be gentle.
Jason, my riding mate for the day, didn’t seem nervous at all. Fortunately for me, our most excellent guide, Mary Beth, was both enthusiastic and calm while explaining all the details about riding a Segway. First and foremost, once it’s turned on, you always have to have a hand on it, otherwise your Segway will wander off. I know because I forgot this rule a couple of times, and my machine quickly rolled it’s eyes at me, turned and left.
Me: Segway? Stay still, please.
We sang the intro to The Jetsons as we rolled along the narrow trail.
The other major rule, Mary Beth explained, was to keep your distance from other riders. If you get too close and rub wheels with another rider, there’s a good chance when rubber collides, one Segway will seize up, and someone might go flying into the bushes. Okay, then!
And stepping on one at first makes you feel a bit like a Weeble-Wobbile… but really, you won’t fall down. Lean forward to go… pull back to stop. Easy, right? Indeed. After a quick tutorial on how to make the thing move, Mary Beth, Jason, and I headed onto a wooded trail with rocks and bumps and sticks and trees and mud. This was that off-roading part I was worried about, but I steeled my nerves and spurned on my machine.
Me: Okay mush, Segway…
We took it easy and practised going up and down small hills and things. As we got the knack, Mary Beth upped the speed on our machines before we finally forged deeper into the woods. We could hear nothing but the whizzing noises of the Segways themselves. I turned back to look at Jason, but I wouldn’t give him the thumbs-up or anything. I wasn’t letting go of the handlebars for love or money. Instead, we just sang the intro to The Jetsons as we rolled along the narrow trail.
And just as I was gaining confidence, we rolled (too quickly) through a very narrow spot… my right wheel clipped a fat tree trunk, and BOOM! I found myself on the damp ground, with one arm trying to hold the now-tipped over Segway at bay, since it was STILL MOVING and I was certain if it hummed and inched closer to me, I’d be crushed by the weight of it on the spot. Mary Beth, excellent guide and teacher that she is, powered the machine OFF straight away. Crisis averted.
I brushed drying mud off my shorts and put my hands on my hips, miffed.
Me: Segway! Did you just throw me? *clutches pearls* How could you?!
Me: I told you I was new at this… BEHAVE!!
Me: I mean really, Segway. *pets and calms paranoid android* Let’s not get all skittish, okay? Be cool…
Noting no bodily harm done (you’re only about 10 or 12 inches off the ground on these things – you can’t really hurt yourself) we rode on, and faster than before. It really was a very cool experience, sailing through the woods like that.
And as Jason noted in his post on the subject, this Blue Mountain activity is geared for people aged 16 and older – and understand, I definitely saw a few elderly people digging rides on these things. They really will be the way of the future, I think – our wheels were of the off-road variety, but for more urban folk, the tires are less-so. I saw an old-kid use one at the airport on my way to Toronto, and there are even Segway wheelchairs that can climb stairs! I understand the technology is being improved all the time… it’s a very cool piece of moving apparatus.
Everyone should try this thing – and if you get to Blue Mountain for the experience, look up Mary Beth and tell her Jason and I sent you – you won’t regret it!
PS – I haven’t heard from my Segway since, but I’m still hoping he’ll call…