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Travelogue: A Chicago Tour with a Twist

Posted on May 12th, 2006 filed in Travelogues    |   

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I’ve been to Chicago many times and I am quite fond of the city, its downtown, night scene, shopping experience, pizza joints, and the Sears Tower. And, as with all that is familiar, my Chicago trips, while very rich, lack as they no more have the novelty factor, the feeling you have when you first visit a place for the first time. Try to recall the first time you visited the Niagara Falls and compare that with the subsequent visits. Sure it is comforting to know a place very well but it takes an ingredient of novelty for that essential je-ne-sais-quoi to make a travel experience unforgettable.

That’s why I was quite ecstatic to read about a new way to enjoy Chicago, a new kind of tour, the Segway tour.

Segway, is short for Segway Human Transporter, is the latest Dean Kamen invention that received so much hype when it was first unveiled a couple of years ago, namely a electric scooter like method of transportation for pedestrian use only.

I had the 3 hour tour booked weeks ahead of my arrival to Chicago as I did not want to take any chances of tours selling out. The starting point was at the northern edge of Grant park. We signed in and were fitted with our segways and helmets. There was a full house of around 20 people with a wide age range from preteens to retired.

We started with some basic safety instructions and a demo of how the Segway works, how to move it forward, turn, and make it stop. Then we had one on one sessions with our guide who made sure that we got it right. I found it quite easy to handle despite being quite awkward at first. I was quite thrilled to feel in control and maneuver this gadget with ease.

The tour then started and it was like no other. We spent around around 2 hours (the 3 hours include the training part) coursing at speeds up to 20 MPH mostly in parks but also at times crossing streets with traffic. I found it quite refreshing to enjoy Chicago this way and see the various landmarks from this new angle. Our guide made a ton of difference as he was fun to deal with and knew Chicago inside out. Every landmark we crossed had its pack of anecdotes, trivia and stories that I came out of the tour with far more knowledge of the city than just a day earlier.

The Segway itself handles well and is a comfortable ride. Its electrical charge can last for 3-4 hours and thus it would be ideal for short rides (30 minutes to work, 10 minutes to the grocery store…). Unlike a bicycle, it requires literally no physical effort and thus will not induce exertion related sweating or other inconveniences that would preclude its use as transport to work. I feel it would be a great fit a large city with serious traffic jam issues like Toronto is.

Overall I had a blast and had lots of fun. I even started toying with getting one myself :)

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One Response to “Travelogue: A Chicago Tour with a Twist”

  1. Marissa Says:

    I have heard of a walking tour in the city, even a cycling tour but a Segway tour! It sounds really cool, I think I know the machine you are talking about, I have seen people on a scooter but it runs on batteries… We live in Indiana and we often go to Chicago, I am going to take you up on your advice and pre-book a tour for my kids and I….I love trying new gadgets and some historical info about the city is always welcome..Thanks

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