The Segway Experience, or How to Accelerate using your Toes

Who knew the power of toes? Because that’s how you tell a Segway to move – by putting pressure on the platform you’re standing on with your toes.  The more pressure, the faster. Then to slow or stop or go backwards, you ‘sit’ back on your heels.  And that, my friend, is how you can go miles on a Segway – and wind up with toe cramps at the Lincoln Memorial. Apparently, my (and a lot of other people’s) toes were wimps, lacking critical Segway-driving muscles.

But really – it was a very cool experience, and I am so glad I was able to do this.  I may experience some hesitation, trepidation, or even worry that a new adventure that I’m about to start is taking up valuable time.  And then I start the adventure – and I have tons of fun.  I smile and marvel; I study the process; I relax and enjoy.  Sure, right now I’m hobbling from sore toes, but yesterday I was gliding along on the National Mall, and turning on a dime.  And things are even better when you are with friends who are also having fun and making you laugh with Dalek (evil gliding cyborgs from Dr. Who) jokes.

So this adventure was through Bike and Roll, DC.  My friend Christine and I used a Groupon (handy things) to take a two-and-a-half hour evening Segway tour of the National Mall area of Washington DC.  We arrived, signed the waivers, watched a video of how incredibly easy it is to fall off a Segway if you hit a bump or go down a slope, and then took a 30-min training session to begin.  Here’s Christine, stepping on …

Christine stepping onto the Segway, with our guide Kia holding it.  First timers trying to balance on it usually set it to rocking somewhat.

Christine stepping onto the Segway, with our guide Kia holding it. First timers trying to balance on it usually set it to rocking somewhat.  Not Christine.

It’s my only real action shot – because once you’re on, and get used to it, everything is pretty smooth and looks that way.

Me, taking my first tentative Segway "steps."  Toe power!

Me, taking my first tentative Segway “steps.” Toe power!

Our tour group got more experienced, and we were going faster later that night – turning beautiful curves, but one can’t exactly take a picture while hanging on to the handlebars.

Lean slightly forward, pressure on the toes, press on the handle bar to the left, bend your knees and tilt, and you curve as if you are flying.  Do the same to the right, and do figure eights.  You can even stand still and just turn in place.

It was very cool once you got used to it.  However it can be a little nerve-wracking at first because the Segway seems to have a life of its own, slip off and it’ll keep going without you. Or in other cases, if the wheels hits a barrier – the Segway will stop – but because of momentum, you’ll keep going.  Last night, one person did exactly that, catching the corner of a tall curb – and was sent sprawling.  Luckily, she had only a mild scrape.  But it helped us keep safety in mind for another 20 minutes or so, as we navigated some narrow sidewalks  – until we got into places where we could try for high speed – oh that’s fun.

By the way, Segways are a very efficient means of travel – the cops in my neighborhood use one (pictures of models here.) Though in crowded areas like the National Mall these contraptions really need to stay in bike lanes, and not on sidewalks where they disrupt pedestrians.  Better yet they should have their own Segway lane.  They are a great means to travel and would save the city tons of CO2 and other pollutants if more people used them instead of cars when the weather permitted.  Pete’s Pizza uses Segways for delivery – and it only costs 20 cents a night to charge one for a full day of delivery.  Think how much a tank of gas would cost.


Anyway, we got so caught up in the Segway part we forgot this was a tour – until our first stop at the Smithsonian castle.  I’ve lived in DC many, many years now, but surprisingly, I learned new things.  Our guide Kia did a great job, and presented some interesting if not always credible facts, showing an understanding of the people behind the events – for instance mentioning how learning about the Korean war is not required in most schools, and how the memorial was supposed to put a face to the war. (It is one of my favorite monuments, and very powerful). Other interesting tidbits:

  • The U.S. flags fly around the monument to represent the state and territory flags, instead of the actual state flags because the states got into heated discussions over which states got to have their flags on the White House side of the monument.  I haven’t found any information about that online yet – but here’s a great overview of the history of the flags and attempts by Congress to change them.  The document has a historical feel of its own.
  • President Truman’s piano fell through the second floor of the White House.  Oh wait, apparently it turns out it was his daughter’s piano, and it was only the leg of it that poked through the ceiling into the floor below.
  • The original Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial is right at the Archives, something I have walked by thousands of time.  The memorial is a unobtrusive marble block, because FDR didn’t want a memorial any larger than his desk.  Later, we, the United States, decided he deserved something bigger and more museum-like due to the great work he had done, but it’s kindof cool to hear about this small memorial.
  • The word lobbyist got its common meaning because Ulysses S. Grant kept getting harassed by folks in the lobby of the Willard hotel.   Oops, that turns out to be a myth – the term lobbyist was common before then.

And other cool gems that I’ll take with a grain of salt. But it was a beautiful evening, with a gorgeous breeze, and the ponds and gardens on the National Mall were beautiful.


Now excuse me while I limp to the kitchen to get lunch.

2 thoughts on “The Segway Experience, or How to Accelerate using your Toes

  1. Pingback: The Year 2014 in Adventures | adventuresacross2014

  2. Pingback: Mini-Motorized Machines | Climate Steps

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