Girls on Wheels go X-TREME!

Girls on Wheels hop on Segways for a fun way to discover a new destination.

Girls on Wheels hop on Segways for a fun way to discover a new destination.

Vicki Baker

Ever wanted to explore a new area of the city but didn’t know where to start? Well if you’re visiting the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens there is a new and innovative way to explore the park without taking a single step. How is that possible? Why a Segway, of course. You’re probably thinking Segways are for mall cops. Au contraire! These two-wheeled, self-balancing phenomena are now available at the gardens, and Girls on Wheels captured that X-treme experience during our May outing thanks to Fort Worth Segway Tours.

Invented by Dean Kamen in 2001, the Segway PT (personal transporter) is a kind of self-balancing, two-wheeled scooter that employs on-board computers, gyroscopic sensors and an electric motor to propel it. The five gyroscopes (wheels that can spin in any direction) allow the Segway to keep its own balance while keeping you upright. The handles are just for holding on; all of the movement happens when you shift your toes and lean, a light amount of pressure on your feet or calves moves you forward or back. The more you lean, the faster you go. Amazingly these machines sense when you’re on, when you’re off and when you’ve run into something, and it tries to correct your balance at all times. It’s almost like a pair of robotic legs.

Before taking off there was a quick 15-minute training session. After all gliders had been trained and the tour guide assessed everyone’s comfort level, it was time to set off navigating the 109 acres of gardens and natural settings. Wearing our helmets we followed our guide like baby ducks in line. The first few minutes were a bit tense, but in no time we were relaxed and flying down the pathways. A childlike grin set in, and we began cruising all on our own, feeling so sorry for the poor pedestrians we were zipping past.

The guide explained everything we were seeing and gave us fun tidbits about the gardens along the way. In addition to covering more distance without wearing out our feet, we also had a better view and got to ride with a cooling breeze fluttering our clothes. Since the Segways are battery powered they are so quiet you can hear the sounds of nature giving us the feel of being a part of our environment. We did some free-range riding in the park off the paved pathways and tested the limits of the vehicle’s 12 mph maximum speed.

Let’s admit it, the Segway has an image problem. It’s tough to look cool as a line of helmeted women zipped around the gardens eliciting snickers from the locals. But we didn’t care. Stepping off the Segway we felt stronger and more accomplished. Sure maybe we did nothing but stand on robotic wheels, but sometimes a little risk can go a long way!