In my cooler years – so, more than five years ago, but less than fifteen – I would have balked if you told me to get on a Segway. Like, no way, maannn. That’s “aannnn” with vocal fry, in case you couldn’t picture me during my cooler years. A vespa, I would have hopped on, but a Segway, where the initial getting on requires the ever-so-uncool act of stepping onto a low platform, definitely would have not fit my “cool” profile.
Recently though, in addition to caring significantly less about my cool-factor, Segways have come an item of greater appeal in the eyes of the general public. Thanks, Paul Blart and “G.O.B.“Bluth! Not to mention, in the super-connected world of iPhones and internet, they nestle perfectly between the categories of extreme convenience and maximum efficiency. Much like the Roomba and the NestEgg, although neither of which I actually understand the necessity of owning but nonetheless prove to be popular consumer purchases.
While in DC this past year the DiploMan and I made it a point to try a Segway tour, which seemed like a good way to see the city, have fun, and -oh what the heck- try something new at the same time. Just ’cause we’re married, doesn’t mean we’re boring, people!
Popular in flat cities such as DC and Chicago (can you imagine a troupe of Segways motoring up and down the hills of San Francisco?!), Segway touring makes for a fun and fast way to check off a few key sites in one afternoon. And if DC isn’t freezing cold or miserably hot, it serves for a pretty pleasant way to spend an afternoon outside.
We had the choice between a two-hour and three-hour tour, and opted for the two-hour one due to time constraints (and ultimately, my LivingSocial voucher limitations). The first half hour was spent on learning how to ride the Segway, including the most awesome instructional video EVER (*insert sarcastic drawl here), followed by a test run on a closed lot. Much as you’d expect, like learning how to operate any moving piece of equipment, it takes a few tries to get it right. There were a few bumps and a few bruised egos. Maybe a couple of super star rookies, too (look at me, ma!).
Little did I know that the act of riding a Segway scooter all depends on where and how you lean your body weight – there are no motor controls, no joystick to tell your wheels where to turn and how much. A little rock towards your toes and you zoom forward. A tiny squat back on your seat, and you’ve stopped. Lean right or left, and well, you turn right or left. Thankfully I’m pretty coordinated (most of the time) and was able to zoom around on two wheels in no time. Some others in the group, I can’t say the same.
The Segways are pretty hardy little machines, and can, as I learned in an informative video, go “off-roading” as well. We zipped on and off sidewalks, in bike lanes, on gravel and paved dirt paths, and were off on our way through the streets of DC. We made a first, and unexpected stop in front of the Eisenhower Executive Building, which is a pretty dang cool building that sits adjacent to the White House, that people often stop to admire but no one really knows what it is. We learned a few things, namely that the architect was moody and depressed and committed suicide by jumping off the top of the building. Fun.
We checked out the White House. There’s a hot tub back there, installed by good ol’ Clinton. Just thought you might find that as predictable and satisfying of a fact as I do.
We rode our trusty Segways, by this time extensions of our own two feet, along Pennsylvania and out onto the mall, stopping to admire the Washington Monument. It’s actually one of my favorite spaces in DC, and I’m always surprised at how everytime I find myself on the grassy lawn in front of the monument, it renders me speechless for a second or two. It’s just so tall. And stark. And monumental! Monument love, right here.
The obelisk has seen better times, since by the time I’m writing this, it’s fully covered with constructive scaffolding. But you would need a few adjustments too, if you were a 555 foot pile of stone that’s been around for almost one hundred fifty years. In monument years, it’s going through it’s teenage times, and just needs a bit of time with braces and a head gear before it goes back to its normal self.
As the sun started to tuck itself between a huge mass of clouds, we hit a few more spots – the WWII Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial. By that time though, my ill-prepared dresscode had rendered me officially freezing. I was catching more wind on the Segway than I anticipated, I guess. Luckily we were nearing the end of two hours, and pretty soon we found ourselves scooting back to our starting point to return our machines.
Back to warmth, back to two feet firmly planted on the ground.
If you’ve read this post and are wondering how it so quickly turned into a tour of Washington, D.C., rest assured I kind of thought the same thing while on the Segway Tour myself. Although, signing up for something called “Segway TOUR” should have clued me in, derr… But simply, it’s easy to forget that in a city such as DC, one can swiftly transform from resident to tourist in minutes. That’s more of what this post is about really, rather than being about the super-fun topic of Segways. Hopefully, no matter where I go, I’ll be able to find these fun escapes and excursions. Whether or not they involve cool things like moving machines and monuments.