Life looks better from a Segway

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 7, 2023, 7:45 PM | comments: 0

Yesterday we went out and did a Segway tour up in Mt. Dora, a cool little uniquely Florida lake town. It was a Christmas idea that Diana came up with, but we just got around to booking it.

After the usual training, as half of our group of six had never been on a Segway before, the tour was really in two parts. The first part was to go rolling through a fantastic park along the lake. There were critters of all kinds, the plant life that you don't find elsewhere, and of course, there were plenty of alligators in the water. Some of them, further off shore, were pretty big. The guide indicated that there were potentially as many as 6,000 gators in that chain of lakes. We only happened to see a half-dozen or so, but it is mating season so I imagine there are a bunch of horny gators out there. Eggs start to hatch in August and September. It was a really fantastic romp in the woods and along the boardwalk, but I imagine it will be gross a month from now, when swamp-ass season starts.

The second part was around the city, which has to be the hilliest part of Florida I've seen. Well, Clermont is like that too, but those hills are longer. It's very much what you would imagine an old Florida town to be. There's the historic inn, a few other historic buildings, a quaint downtown, and tons of unique restaurants. It's all very charming, and there are some fantastic houses around the lake as well.

Diana and I have done quite a few of these tours. The last one we did was around Port Canaveral, which mostly consisted of going around to the canal locks and around the big visitor building. Like the Mt. Dora tour, quite a bit of it was off-road, which is super fun. Those were also the fastest ones that we've been on, able to go the full 12.5 mph, while the others were all limited to lower speeds. We also did one in Seattle, which was long, but aside from the "free run" around the Seattle Center area, it was a lot of crossing streets and being cautious. Our first and second experiences were at Epcot, back when they still did tours prior to the park opening. The second one was particularly great, since it was just us and the tour guides. As repeat riders, the training part was quick, no one was falling behind, and we got to roll through all kinds of cool places. In fact, we got to slide into the backstage area where they load the fireworks on the barges, which was very cool.

I always wanted to buy a Segway, but at $5k each, they're a bit expensive. And now, unfortunately, they're also no longer made. A Chinese company called Ninebot bought the company in 2015. In 2020 they discontinued it, after only 140,000 total had ever been made. There's a fairly robust used market out there, and even used they're going for over $5k. Ninebot specializes in all kinds of scooters, and they still make a thing that is classic Segway-like. It goes the same speed, but it's lighter, has smaller non-air filled wheels and costs about a grand, sometimes less when it's on sale. I've been tempted to buy one for the last few years, but I just can't imagine that it's as robust and solid as the proper machine. I will say that it's intriguing that there's a go-kart option for the newer thing, and it will go 25 mph.

It seems weird that these things really never caught on. In tech circles, it sure seemed like they would. There was some limited adoption in law enforcement and security. Disney used them quite a bit backstage at one time, but I'm not sure if that's still the case. They killed Epcot tours probably because people were suing to use their own in the park, saying it was a medical device (ADA guidelines suggested they could be, but I don't think any accredited medical organization ever agreed), and Disney won that suit.

Hopefully these things can still be found here and there. They're a lot of fun.


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