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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

the Segway

Max and I are vacationing near San Diego, CA. So we had a couple of hours to kill after checking out of our hotel, and before getting to the airport. Thanks again to my wife's thoughtfulness and research, we knew about a Segway tour company in Coronado (just south of downtown San Diego).

The trip there took us on a bridge that was 256 feet high. Very impressive view of the bay.

The Segway tour company was run by a retired newspaper publisher. His goal, he said, was not to make money, although he didn't want too lose any. He had 2 models of the Segway; the original required twisting the handlebars to turn. The newer version had bars that just tilted left or right - much simpler.

We got maybe 5 minutes of instruction, the hardest part of which involved just stepping on and off without pulling on the handlebars. But moving forward and back was remarkably easy and obvious: tilt forward or back.

For the first bit, we were in training mode, pretty slow. Then we moved into full mode -- offering a top speed of about 12 mph.

So we went about six miles in an hour, along the shore, through a lovely neighborhood, and off-road in a park. There I tried to hit top speed, leaning far forward. Only to find that some kind of gyroscopic system forced me upright.

In short, it was a remarkably intuitive device. The owner said they cost about $5,000 each. At a tour cost of $60 each, that's 83 tours. He said that in season - which starts next week - he'll do 8 people at a time.

In three years of business, he says he hasn't had a single injury, and some of his tours consist of people in their 70's and 80's.

It was fun! And if you lived in a city, where most of your travels were within 5-10 miles, this would be a brilliant and ecological vehicle.

Unfortunately, few people these days live within those limits. Too bad the Segway wasn't invented before tbe car; city zoning, and the quality of life generally, would have been far more interesting, varied, and civilized.

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