Electric-powered devices gain niche as novelties
Some couples celebrate their anniversary with a horse-drawn carriage ride. Others rent a romantic cabin in the woods. A few even jet off to Las Vegas and renew their vows in front of Elvis.
Lori Kelly and her husband Gene recently marked their second anniversary by touring the woods of the Omni Bedford Springs Resort & Spa on a Segway.
"It was absolutely fantastic. It is really the ultimately unique experience especially for people my age," said Kelly, 59. Her husband is 64. "It gives you the flavor of adventure with very little threat of injury."
The Segway, first introduced a decade ago as an alternative mode of personal transportation, is getting a new life at a growing number of resorts around the world. For those not familiar with the two-wheeled electric vehicle, it works like this: Lean forward to move forward. Lean backward to go in reverse. Move the handlebars, and it turns left or right. Pretty simple.
The device never quite took off as an everyday way to get around, but it has found a niche replacing city walking tours and helping security guards patrol local shopping malls. And now hotels with sprawling grounds are finding the Segway to be a great way to show guests around their properties. Plus, the devices are still quirky enough to be an attraction in their own right.
"You don't need any special skills to navigate around on it," said Kelly, the executive director of the American Red Cross in West Virginia.
She and her husband traveled in mid-September from their home in Shepherdstown, W.Va. to Pennsylvania resort for a two-night getaway. They shopped, sat by the hotel's fire pits, played horseshoes and had a romantic anniversary dinner.
But what really made the trip unique was the 90-minute, off-road Segway tour for $90.
"Once you mastered it, you felt very, very comfortable about it," she said.
Lois Crosby, 62, recently hopped on a Segway at the Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va. She was there, joining her husband on a business trip.
"All the other people in my group went golfing and I'm not a golfer," said Crosby, of Germantown, Tenn. So she spent $65 for the 90-minute tour. "It's a lot of fun. It's really a lot of fun."
Part of the excitement is just the novelty of the Segway.
"Neither of us had been on a Segway before but they looked fun," said John Wilson, 50, who recently did a tour with his wife Melissa at The Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Va.
The 90-minute tour, which started on Memorial Day, travels on meandering trails through the resort's woods. Guest get mountain views and often spot wildlife including bear, deer and red-tailed hawks. The tour costs $70 a person.
"I said to my wife, I feel like the laziest hiker ever," said Wilson, of Alexandria, Va., who oversees national programing for PBS. "Once you start, it's sort of intuitive as to how it is to go."
Prices generally range from $60 to $125 per person. But there are some deals to be found. The Paradisus Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic offers a 45-minute tour for $35 and the Shangri-La Golden Sands Resort in Malaysia offers 15-minute rides around the resort for about $10. Several resorts have minimum age requirements and only allow guests between a certain weight to participate, generally 100 to 260 pounds (45 to 118 kilos).
Some hotels offer tours on paved paths while others go through more-adventurous off-road terrain. Some properties offer both options or custom-tailor a tour based on how comfortable the group feels after the initial training. A driver's license isn't needed and most resorts offer guests helmets. The Segway can go up to 12 mph (about 19 kilometers) but tours often go slower and stop to point out the sights, covering just four or five miles (six to eight kilometers) during the 90 minutes.
Most hotels start their tours with a practice session in an empty parking lot or in the middle of a field. Once guests have mastered the Segway, they head out to explore the grounds.
At The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, visitors travel on a trail that hugs the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, offering seemingly-endless views of the California coast. At the Turtle Bay Resort in Hawaii, guests on Segways can see sea turtles and Hawaiian Monk Seals basking in the sun. At O'Reilly's Gold Coast, a resort at Australia's Lamington National Park, guests explore the surrounding rainforest and cross creeks on the Segways.
None of this is exactly roughing in it. But after all it, it is a vacation.
Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at http://twitter.com/GlobeTrotScott.
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