Wednesday, 15 May 2013 14:15

Segway tours make debut in Waynesville

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out frThe train was the first to arrive in Waynesville back in 1886; then, the rise of the automobile; but, this spring, there’s a new human transporter in town: the Segway.

The owners of a bed and breakfast began offering guided and narrated Segway tours last month, allowing visitors or locals to see town from a new perspective on the upright, two-wheeled people movers.

 

The agile scooters have been around for just over a decade. But after taking a Segway tour in Asheville in February, Carolyn Gendreau and Dina Giunta, owners of Brookside Mountain Mist Inn, decided it was time to bring them to sleepy Waynesville. Their hope is Segway Tours of Waynesville will provide an extra activity around town, in addition to the staple pastimes of shopping and eating downtown.

“It’s just one more reason to stay here in Waynesville,” Gendreau said. “You can only do so much shopping and eating.”

And, a Segway tour is somewhat of a rite of passage to becoming a bonified tourist destination, and is especially outstanding for a place that doesn’t even have a bowling alley. Segway Tours of Waynesville puts the town on the same list as other Segway tour cities such as Chicago, Florence and Budapest, and the makes it the North Carolina town furthest west of Asheville to carry the service. Gendreau thinks the Segway tour is even a better fit for Waynesville — with its mountain views, Civil War history and less crowded sidewalks — than Asheville.

Although those aspects could be enjoyed via a walking tour, there’s something special about riding a two-wheeled, gyroscope machine that is just one step below the hovering skateboards in the film “Back to the Future Part II.”

“Sure you could do a walk-around tour in Waynesville but where’s the fun in that?” Gendreau said.

The inn has a 2.5-hour Segway tour route with a focus on the area’s past — including a stop at the Greenville cemetery for a gander at its noteworthy grave stones and stunning views — and passing by several local historic sites like the Shelton House, the historic courthouse downtown and the monument commemorating the last shots fired of the Civil War. For about $60 anybody can hop on one of the inn’s Segways and tag along.

The tour is guided and includes narration on the town’s history. But Gendreau promised to go light on the history lesson if a group of locals want to take the tour and are less interested in historical anecdotes and more inclined to simply ride the Segways. A Segway costs more than $6,000, so to ride one for $60 is surely a bargain, she said. 

Although Segway incidents have been known to grab headlines in the past — President George W. Bush was photographed toppling over on one, and a British businessman who bought the company that makes Segways tumbled over a cliff to his death on a Segway — the vehicles are quite intuitive and user-friendly. It goes only how fast you want it to go.

“The only time it’s going to move rapidly is if you move rapidly,” Gendreau said. 

The inn’s tours are open for first-time Segway-ers and begin with a training session. Those that give it a try but begin to feel uncomfortable zig-zagging between orange cones in the B&B’s parking lot can opt out of the tour and receive a refund.

Riding the Segway is a mental game, learning to trust the apparatus and relax. Even the most uncoordinated and awkward people can master the human transporter. The concept is simple: the rider leans forward and the Segway goes forward; lean back and the scooter stops. The handlebar acts as a big joystick for turning.

Gendreau said she has never been a skateboarder or a surfer, yet she felt at ease on the Segway the first time she powered one up.

It typically takes about 10 to 15 minutes to get the hang of one. However, she understands some people never quite get the hang of it, and so she decided to offer the refund. There is also the option of starting out on some of the residential streets near the Waynesville Country Club before heading onto more complicated city terrain.

“I don’t want anybody out on that tour who is not going to enjoy themselves,” Gendreau said. “And you’re not going to enjoy it if you’re in fear for your life at every moment.”

Since buying the Segways from a dealer in South Carolina, Segway Tours of Waynesville has given a couple of rides. A rainy spring has kept the tours from ramping up into high gear (which is 12 miles per hour for a Segway), but Gendreau is hoping the interest will pick up as word gets out.

The Segway can go 24 miles in a single charge, doesn’t have emissions and is whisper quiet, Gendreau said. The combination makes it perfect for tours and even running errands around town. Already, Gendreau’s and Giuntu’s best marketing tactic is using the new Segways to go to the post office and grocery store (you may have seen them scooting down the sidewalk on their weekly errands), while carrying a stack of informative fliers along.

They say it’s hard to go anywhere on the techy-looking scooters without getting looks, questions and comments. But they never get tired of taking them out for a spin, whether for personal use or leading a tour group.

“I though after while I’d get tired of it,” Gendreau said. “But every time I get to go out on them I get excited. When somebody books a tour I say ‘Yay, I get to go out on a tour.’”

 

Take a Segway tour of Waynesville

Segway Tours of Waynesville takes residents, visitors and anyone interested in riding a Segway on tours to historic and noteworthy spots around town. The price is between $55 and $65 and trips last about 2.5 hours, departing from the Brookside Mountain Mist Inn near on Country Club Drive. The tours are open for 16 years and older weighing between 100 and 240 pounds. All tours begin with a Segway training and safety session. Further details can be found on the tour’s website.

828.456.6793 or www.brooksidemountainmistbb.com/segwaytour.htm.

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