By Chad Nance
Photos by Bowman Gray IV
It does not take long after stepping onto a SegwayHT to feel that you look like the world’s biggest nerd, but it’s only a micro-second into riding one before you don’t give a crap what you look like or who’s looking. Hal Boyle and his team at Triad Eco Adventures understand this dynamic and it is at the heart of the Segway tours they now offer here in Winston-Salem.
In anticipation of the Segway HT hitting the market, Steve Jobs was quoted as saying that it would be “Bigger than the PC.” After the gadget was released, Jobs was quoted again saying that the initial design “sucked,” but that hasn’t stopped the personal transportation devices from being scooped up by technology enthusiasts. They retail for around $6,500 new these days.
Since the launch in 2001 Segways have gone from being Nerd Chic to finding their niche with security and law enforcement personnel as well as with tour operators who seek to give travelers and locals up close and personal tours that are able to cover more ground than the traditional walking or riding tours.
The SegwayHT is one of the most intuitive machines ever invented. Dean Kamen, who is touted as a 21st century Thomas Edison without the mean streak, created an innovative personal transport which does not “drive” in a traditional or conventional sense. The Segway “thinks” and reacts to subtle shifts in body weight, posture, and balance. The machine’s sensors feel you aboard, process your most minute movements, crunch it all through a microprocessor outfitted with a proprietary algorithm, and then interpret your intentions as it propels you about the world. It takes the average human being a matter of moments before they are zipping around on these marvelous machines as if they have momentarily reverted straight back to transcendent joys of playground status. The Segway is not a replacement for walking- it is an experience in and of itself.
As if cruising on a SegwayHT was not enough of a delight, Triad Eco Adventures allows riders to experience Winston-Salem history in a unique and valuable way. It is the mode of transport that offers the new perspective. Unlike a tour in another kind of vehicle, the Segway tour allows you to be closer and truly experience Winston-Salem in a more tactile way. Even the tour guide, Eric Dowdy, seemed surprised when he realized that there is a swimming pool at street level behind one of Winston-Salem’s loft/condo buildings. There are still discoveries to be made by Winston-Salem natives as well, like the fact that Krispy Kreme first opened their doors in what is now called Old Salem.
The Triad Eco Adventures (there is another tour outfit in town) offer two distinct tours, with options for individuals, groups, and businesses. CCD took the Seg “N” The City tour, which was designed by Hal after he spent time traveling and experiencing various Segway tours around the nation. His experiences in Austin, Texas greatly influenced what he is now is doing here in Winston-Salem. Similar to Winston-Salem, Austin is known as a center for the arts and technology within a politically regressive state whose national brand can be a major impediment to attracting tourists. Also like Austin, Winston-Salem is often seen as an “island of sanity” that offers amenities and experiences that aren’t available anywhere else.
The guided Seg “N” The City Tour starts at Triad Eco Adventures HQ (located behind the YWCA) and first moves into Old Salem. The guide then leads tourists through Old Salem and into God’s Acre, the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, and then downtown up Trade and 4th Streets before heading back through the Holly Ave. and West Salem neighborhoods. Riding the Segway means that the experience is not just visual- all the senses are engaged by the smell of honeysuckles along Salem Creek and coffee being roasted inside of Krankies. The spectacular views in God‘s Acre and feel of wind on your face all come together in way that lives on in the memory even after the tour is over. The particular rush of operating a Segway combined with Camel City’s deep and complex past and vibrant, high-tech future makes for a tourist experience that even natives will find much to enjoy.
Triad Eco Adventures have labored to create a fine way to spend some time in Camel City getting to know our town even better while having an exhilarating, memorable experience.
CCD would like to thank Hal Boyle, Eric Dowdy and Shannon Perkins for their hospitality, humor and patience in the creation of this article. You can find more information about Triad Eco Adventure tours HERE.
You can see more of Bowman Gray’s work with Humans of Winston-Salem HERE.