What better birthday gift for Wheels than more wheels?! This time they were only rented, but what an awesome morning! We drove the fifteen miles to Downtown Columbus and met our tour guide, Dave. He outfitted us with helmets wired with speakers and marched us outside He unleashed his Segway from the outlet where it had been charging its powerful battery and demonstrated how to step on to it. Hold it straight up, look straight ahead, place one foot on and then the other. Do not look down. Then he showed us how to move forward on the large, silent tires by leaning forward from the ankles. Dave assured us that our units would top out at 7 mph although they were capable of running 12 mph from the factory. Stop, lean backward, but keep your eyes straight ahead. To turn, move the handlebars which were about waist high, in the direction you want to go and lean slightly that same direction. And then he demonstrated how the turning radius was the width of the unit with tight, impressive circles.
Each of us got our own Segway and personal instruction from Dave on its use. The Segway gets its name from the Italian segue, which means smooth transition or literally, follows smoothly. Computers and motors in the heavy base keep the unit balanced while complex sensors respond to the user’s shifting weight. It was a little wobbly at first, but also surprisingly quick to feel quite secure and in command. When Dave was sure we would all follow instructions and could control our units, we took off for a magical tour in the brisk coolness.
The Segways hummed along silently, except for the sound of tires on pavement. Dave led us single file down narrow sidewalks of the old city, pointing out historical buildings. Amazing to think they had been in use continuously for over 150 years! He led us through newly redeveloped areas and pointed out architectural features and the story behind them. We powered through tiny pocket parks, the first park in town named after the first doctor in town, parks along the river, and a park that replaced an ugly shopping mall. We saw restored theaters and brand new sports arenas. A former realtor, Dave also pointed out interesting properties; the 12,000 square foot penthouse apartment atop a large building, the circus house built at the turn of the century to resemble the circus tents that brought the owner his wealth, the gorgeous old homes of Victorian Village with a brand new multimillion dollar home in the middle that fit the style seamlessly. We saw places we would never have noticed driving by and heard stories about sights that would have remained a mystery. We reluctantly returned our Segways to their moorings and then walked back to the restaurants built on a bridge that caps (and quietens) a major highway for lunch. It began to rain then, but it had been a most satisfying morning!
When we first moved to Columbus, the downtown was dirty, noisy with old buildings in disrepair, gray and depressing. What a change! Repurposed buildings, redevelopment, new parks. What a joy to see that which was so uninspiring is now vibrant, colorful, better maintained and offers an environment that provides good quality of life for citizens. What a joy to learn something new like the Segway and to be able to “master” a unique technology. And, what a great joy to spend time with loved ones. May you have such joys this week!
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