Wilderness Back Trail Adventure
Segway Tour at Ft. Wilderness

By Masayo Kano, ALL EARS® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the November 6, 2007 Issue #424 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

OK, where should I start? Let's say, this was my very first experience with a Segway. Ever since I read Deb Wills' great report on All Ears a long time ago, I've wanted to try this. However, I hadn't done so until this trip.

Why did I wait? Because I was a bit afraid to do this. I'm a little bit squeamish -- I am a think and think and go nowhere person. I know I need a much longer time to get the hang of things than others. However, once I get it, I'll be OK -- that's me.

So, when I read about this new tour at Fort Wilderness and saw pictures of those who had already done it, I was excited. How cool! It looked like a lot of fun! But then I said to myself, "Wait a minute -- do you think you can really handle this? Are you sure about this?" Umm... so I thought maybe I needed to wait a bit longer to give it a try.

Then, my very special friend, Deb Wills, mentioned that she'd be doing this while I was still in Walt Disney World. Oh, boy! That'd be a great opportunity for my friend Nozomi and me. I asked Nozomi about it and found out that she's been wanting to try the Segway, too. However, her husband has not wanted to, so she thought this was great!

That's why we decided to do this.

Later, we learned that Mike Newell from Mouse World Radio and WDWToday podcast and Linda Mac from All Ears would join us. What more could we ask for? This would be a very special tour, for sure!

So early in the morning of September 27, Nozomi and I were in Deb's car. (If Deb did not offer us a ride, we would have had to get a taxi to be there in time, so I thank Deb for that.) Neither of us had ever been to Fort Wilderness so that also made this tour experience more special. At the Fort Wilderness parking lot we found Linda Mac so we all started to walk to the bus stop. We were a bit worried about rain so I had a poncho just in case.

We ran into more of Deb's friends on our way to the bus stop -- the more the merrier I say, right?

When we arrived at Mickey's Backyard BBQ Pavilion, there were already a few people waiting for us. We had two very kind and helpful guides, Frank and Ron.

We had to sign waivers. I know this is a must but it made me a little nervous again. OK, I should be really careful to avoid getting hurt, you know? Then we watched a safety guide video and listened to the instructions by Ron.

I tried not to miss anything, but it was very hard for me because I'm Japanese and have a language barrier. At the end, I think Ron talked about what we should do when the "red light" turned on, but I was not sure if I got that right so I wanted to hear it again. I could not ask what I wanted to know due to my poor English, but there was a man who understood me and asked Ron to tell me what I wanted to know. Also, Ron made all of us feel comfortable by showing us that no one can fall off the Segway. That's the thing I was most afraid of, so I was relieved to hear that.

Now, time to touch the Segway. I was surprised to see that we could put our bags in the storage attached to the Segway itself. I thought there would be a locker to keep my things. The storage did not look big enough to stow my bags, so Mike offered his storage bag for me. However, to my surprise, I could fit mine in my Segway storage. Later I found that there were also two more areas for bottled water and such -- how nice!

We learned how to mount and dismount the Segway. We had to wait our turn to do this one-on-one with our guide. Actually, it's very simple. You grab the middle of the handle with one hand, and with the other hand grab the center bar. Then you put your left foot up and then the right -- that's it! However I found it was a bit difficult for me on the Segway because my body was not standing still so that my Segway was not steady. Let me tell you, if you're confused what to do then your Segway will be confused too. I tried to stay still but I was not that good.

Later, my friend Nozomi said that when she looked at me when we were on the Segway, she could tell how I was nervous and tense. I guess it was pretty obvious because I got attention from not only our guide but attendees. I felt so bad about that. Mike told me many times, "You'll be OK; we're gonna have a lot of fun. Ten minutes after you'll be fine." I trusted him on that so I let myself be nervous for a while.

We moved forward, then stopped, made a turn and moved forward, and learned how to zigzag. Here's one more thing I was afraid of -- what if I hit the cone? Well, that was just all right. The cone is made of rubber-like plastic so it's not hard. You can run over it if you want (!), so no shock when I ran over it. Oops. Also I was surprised to learn how easy the Segway can make a turn when you are not moving forward. You can make a 360-degree turn around at where you're standing. Cool!

We split into two groups and also learned how to duck, make a sudden stop, go up inclines and down declines. By that time I got the hang of it. Mike was right; I needed 10 minutes and then I started to enjoy the Segway a lot!

After all the basic, important lessons we could go through Fort Wilderness. We could see the stable and horses, and going around the campground, we saw that some of those trailers had Halloween decorations on them that were very nice. I wonder how beautiful they are in the holiday season.

Then we started to leave from Fort Wilderness and on the path to the Wilderness Lodge -- it was wonderful. Because this Segway is the all-terrain type we don't need to worry about bumps. Our tour guide had a microphone on but when I was the last of the group I hardly heard what he was saying. During this tour we made several stops and the order changed so that I could be in front for a while. It was not hard because we did not go very fast -- just a comfortable speed to enjoy scenery.

I will tell you a funny story. When we had a stop by the lake, we had a photo opportunity. By then, I was very comfortable and confident about riding the Segway, even staying still. But when we wanted to have a group photo with Deb, Linda, Mike and Nozomi, Ron said to Nozomi, "You're a better rider than her (me!), so you come here." Ron said to me, "You stay here, don't move." Then he asked Mike, Linda and Deb to come around me. He also said, "Be careful the wheels don't touch -- that's why I put her (me!) in the center." Oh, dear, was I that bad? I thought, "Excuse me, I'm doing pretty good now, right?"

During the tour, we could see squirrels and deer. How beautiful they were. We do have deer in Japan, yes, but to see deer that way we need to go to very specific places way out in the country. At least there are no deer near my apartment. Seeing the deer was wonderful.

Overall, it was very much fun and a wonderful experience, I believe. Well worth $85. I'd do that again. In fact I'm thinking about doing this with my husband in December -- we'll see. If you read this, you know I'm not very good at this, but still I really enjoyed it very much. I'll recommend this to anyone, especially people like me. You don't need to be afraid or worry about it -- you'll be fine. Trust me on this because I'm saying it from my own experience.

So, here is my applause to our great guides, Ron and Frank, to the other attendees, and last, but not least, to my friends who helped me a lot.

Related Links:

Linda Mac's report and photos: http://land.allears.net/blogs/lindamac/2007/10/fort_wilderness_segway_tour_ph_1.html


-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.