Alaska's Emerald Isle

Segway tours offer a fun and eco-friendly way to see the sights
in these Southern cities.
by Lisa Waterman Gray

I strap on a bicycle helmet and board a Segway¨ Personal Transporter. Segway of Amelia Island Manager Gary Bleil glides effortlessly to the front of our group at Amelia Island Plantation near Jacksonville, Fla. A smiley face appears on the handlebar and I move towards small orange cones that mark the parking lot training area. Bleil sits abruptly and his Segway halts, then he rounds the first cone smoothly. I sit with a shaky stop, bump the first cone, navigate wider, longer turns around the second and third, wobble past the fourth and then start over again.

Segway

Above: A group explores Amelia Island Plantation Segway of Amelia Island photo

Below: Segway tours are available in San Antonio through SegCity. Groups see sights like the Alamo and San Fernando Cathedral, which was founded in 1731. SegCity photo

Segway



After Bleil believes we can handle our Segways independently, we line up behind him with his assistant at the end. When traveling down slopes, I lean back while bending my knees to about 30 degrees, and then lean forward in a diagonal position to increase my speed and climb the hills. I aim for a steady pace, while maintaining plenty of distance from the woman who is immediately in front of me.

Until you've ridden one of these unusual transportation devices beside a stretch of pristine Atlantic beach or along lush, palm-flanked trails, you don't know what you're missing. Resort guests wave, grin and step aside as we pass. Pale winter sunshine dissolves as a light mist shrouds the golf course and ocean leaving only the low, whooshing sound of surf. Our three-mile trip ends at Segway of Amelia Island where Bleil hands out licenses.

The next time you ride a Segway here, you won't have to get training," he says.

Amelia Island Plantation is one of several Segway tour operations available throughout the Southern United States. Segway of Amelia Island offers eight different tours, which include a variety of Segway Safaris, Family Tours and shorter Junior Tours, priced from $40 to $80. Riders must be at least 8 years old and weigh between 60 and 280 pounds. Call Segway of Amelia Island for information at (904) 277-5120 or visit www.aipfl.com/activities/AmeliaWheels/Segway_of_Amelia.htm.

The basics

Battery-operated and self-balancing, a Segway can travel 12-24 miles with a single charge, depending on the model, and they have a top speed of 12 ? miles per hour. Most people can learn to ride a Segway fairly well after about 30 minutes of training. Within 15-20 minutes of beginning a tour, many can primarily focus on the sights rather than on their driving.

But not every certified Segway tour company has the same requirements for its passengers. In fact, minimum age requirements among these companies range from 8 to 16, and weight requirements can differ significantly depending on where you take a Segway tour. Each tour operator requires approximately half an hour of training before a tour begins, and all riders must wear helmets and sign safety waivers (parents must sign for their minor children). In addition, each Segway tour company requires reservations.

If you're planning a visit to one of these Southern cities, consider sightseeing with these Segway tour companies.

Gliding Easy/Segway of Jackson

After Bob and Lyda Gilmore enjoyed a Segway tour with family members at Walt Disney World Resort's Fort Wilderness, Bob decided he wanted a Segway. The couple started their part-time tour company, Gliding Easy/Segway of Jackson, in fall 2007. Riders must be at least 16 and accompanied by an adult if under 18, and weigh from 100 to 260 pounds. The two- to three-hour tour and training costs $65 and reservations are required.

Located in Clinton, Miss., a suburb of Jackson, Gliding Easy offers a general focus tour with a pre-recorded narration. Points of interest include historic Old Towne Clinton, the Mississippi College campus and Old Spring. You'll also visit a section of the original Natchez Trace. In addition, you'll travel past two restored antebellum homesChina Hill Guest House, which was used as a Union campsite, and Violet Banks, a private home named many years ago for the violets that once grew on its banks.

"One of the places that we actually visit was known as the public square, and would have been the capital of Mississippi if it hadn't lost by one vote," Bob says. "We also will do custom tours."

To learn more, call Gliding Easy/Segway of Jackson at (601) 260-0485 or click on www.segwayofjackson.com.

San Antonio's SegCity

Sights along San Antonio's SegCity tour route may include the San Antonio River Walk, The Alamo, and Buckhorn Saloon, with the world's largest collection of antlers and rattlesnake rattles. You also may ride along Historic Houston St., the historic shopping and entertainment district in San Antonio; San Fernando Cathedral, the oldest cathedral sanctuary in the United States; and the King William District, established in the 1840s when many Germans migrated to the state, with more than 30 historic homes that now include several luxurious bed and breakfasts.

SegCity tours range from two to 2 ? hours in length and cost $65 per person. You must be at least 10 years old and weigh between 85 and 300 pounds. In addition, a parent or legal guardian must accompany each child who is under age 18. Tours begin at 9 a.m., 2 and 6 p.m., depending on the individual tour focus, and they depart from two different offices in the city.

For more information, call (210) 224-0773 or visit www.segcity.com. SegCity also offers Segway tours in Austin (512-402-9299).

Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando

For a novel view of Walt Disney World, take a Segway tour, "Around the World at Epcot." As you ride through the World Showcase, you may glimpse a Chinese pagoda, a German village, a Moroccan minaret, and an American colonial-style mansion, to name just a few captivating sights along the route. The two-hour tours cost $95 per person and reservations are required. Tours are available seven days a week, at 7:45, 8:30, 9 and 9:30 a.m.

You can also enjoy Florida's natural beauty during the Wilderness Back Trail Adventure at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, while aboard a Segway "X2," which offers higher ground clearance and deeply treaded tires. These two-hour tours take place on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, for $85 per person.

"Given enough time, we have done special tours," says Rick Sylvain, with Walt Disney World Resort's publicity department. "But because of the scheduled daily tours, anything custom would be based on availability."

Segway riders at WDW must be between 100 and 250 pounds, and at least 16 years old, with a parent or guardian's signature for children up to 18 years old. Schedule Around the World at Epcot and Wilderness Back Trail Adventure tours at (407) WDW-TOUR or visit http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/wdw/parks/tourDetail?id=AroundtheWorldEpcotTourPage&bhcp=1.

Jan/Feb 2009 Issue

BEFORE YOU GO

January is Disney month at AAA. Come to AAA on Jan. 13 for Disney Night and learn about the latest developments and how you and your family can make this year the time for a Disney vacation. Details are in the current issue of AAA Midwest and AAA Southern Traveler magazine, or call (888) 366-4222.

Order free information about Mississippi and Texas through the online Reader Service program http://southern.ai-dsg.com


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