My sister, Heather, visited me this past weekend, and since she hasn’t been to DC since the sixth grade safety patrol trip, the National Mall seemed like a logical tourist destination. Heather also has a personal list of experiences that she would like to have, somewhat like a bucket list. Riding on a Segway scooter was on the list, so I suggested that we combine these two goals and go on a Segway tour of the National Mall.
Saturday morning was beautiful with a blue sky and not too hot, so it was perfect for our adventure. At City Segway Tours, the large group was separated into groups of about 8, and Heather and I were paired up with a group of six who were all related to each other. The other group included a mother who was 77, and although she had some reservations about the whole Segway idea, she was a real trooper. Our fantastic guide, Stephanie, was extremely supportive and without any apparent effort, was always in exactly the right place to lend the woman a hand getting on, off, or parking her scooter.
We started with about 10-15 minutes of instructions on how to operate the Segways, and we got to practice a little bit before we went out on the tour. Segways work by a pressure platform under your feet, so shifting weight to your toes makes you go forward, and shifting onto your heels makes you slow down or go in reverse. The handle is used strictly for steering, and there was a small bag so we didn’t have to carry our baggage on our shoulders. The first time each one of us stepped onto a Segway, we were very unsteady for a moment or two, but it probably only took about five minutes to get the feel of how it worked. We each wore bicycle helmets for safety, but happily, no one actually needed them.
Because the streets around most of the monuments and Federal buildings are closed to vehicle traffic and with the large open space of the Mall, Washington is a wonderful place to ride a Segway. We were usually on the sidewalks or in a bike lane and only had to navigate the streets for a few short stretches. I especially liked the wide street on the north side of the White House. There was plenty of space for us to take Stephanie’s suggestion of testing out the speed of our scooters and opening them up to their full 10 mph maximum speed.
Stephanie learned all our names at the start of the tour, and since she established that most of the group hadn’t spent much time in DC, she suggested that we do a shorter loop around the Mall and have a little time to explore the memorials rather than doing the extra two mile loop down to the Capitol. So we went behind the White House and then had stops at the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, the Martin Luther King Memorial, the FDR Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. We also had a stop at the DC War Memorial, which is actually the World War I memorial, but at the time it was built, it was thought to be the only world war that would happen. That was a small circular memorial off the beaten track which was especially fun to circumnavigate on a Segway.
Oddly, the biggest challenge on a Segway is that we spent nearly three hours effectively standing on our feet, which is tougher than walking in many ways. Having a chance to hop off and flex our feet was a big help.
Overall, the Segway tour was big fun, and I would recommend it to anyone. Stephanie had an undergraduate degree in history and gave a particularly good tour as well with interesting stories and details. It didn’t give lots of time to visit the monuments, but as a stylish way of getting around the mall and especially as a transportation mode sure to evoke admiration and envy from the tourists, it can’t be beat.