Travel

It's woman vs. machine during an adventurous Segway lesson

Some ride the waves on surfboards in Honolulu, but I found a daring option on dry land: the Segway Human Transporter. It's better than walking – and much faster. But first you have to learn how to use the two-wheeled electric vehicle.

It's a simple feat for some. I'd only seen the machine in photos when my daughter, Rachel, and I decided to don helmets and learn while on Hawaii's Big Island.

At the Waikiki resort along with eight other beginners, we climbed on for a lesson. The self-balancing Segway HT was invented in New Hampshire as an environmentally friendly mode of transportation for walkways. Hawaiian officials hope it will decrease their state's congestion, pollution and parking issues.

“It is quiet, pollution free and gets the energy equivalency of 450 mpg,” Segway of Hawaii owner Alan Rice says of his fleet.

On that hot and steamy tropical afternoon we listened and watched as Rice, on a Segway of course, effortlessly moved about.

Each motorized Segway has a technological chip inside the foot platform. It reads body movement and was definitely in sync with Alan as he navigated the pavement with ease. Unfortunately, it read mine, too.

I'm a wiggler prone to fidgeting, so my inexperience and squirming caused me to ride around the small lot like a spastic mouse on a warped wheel. My daughter, an automotive and aviation technician who understands all things mechanical, hopped on and started riding. There was no doubt she'd be taking the 2-mile trip to Ala Moana Park. Rates? From $49 and up.

At the other end of the spectrum, a couple of us needed special help to get our wheels moving in the right direction. We practiced for 30 minutes before Alan decided who could safely ride to the park. All but two of us could take off. My disappointment only lasted until I learned that our Segways would be packed into a van and driven to the meeting point. We passed the “pros” as they glided toward the park like ducks in a row, weaving in and around pedestrians. We arrived at Ala Moana Beach parking lot about 10 minutes before the others, which gave me time to practice without so many watchful eyes. Eventually, I started to become one with the machine.

The Segway and I were moving at a clip. Hot wind blew across my face as I buzzed around, more confident and definitely smiling now. Because I was more confident, I was allowed to follow the “experts” to Magic Island, a peninsula that is part of the park.

From Magic Island's jetty I finally saw a perfect view of Diamond Head. The view of the mountain, surrounded by fluffy clouds and a fuzzy, blue, heat-hazed sky, was well worth the afternoon effort. Plus, I had to savor the glow of success – woman over machine!

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