The Big Easy

I just spent an extended weekend in New Orleans. That town is amazing. Given the liquor I seem to have consumed, at least based on the rate my wallet was getting lighter (aside from the airport parking kiosk eating my credit card), I can’t even believe the amount of alcohol that must flow through the French Quarter. I was definitely less intoxicated than many people. One neat thing I did was taking the City Segway Tour. While the tour itself wasn’t super informative, the novelty of riding a Segway HT through parts of the French Quarter and Algiers Point far outweighed any negatives. Those Segways are awesome little machines. The controls themselves are fairly simple, once you get used to getting on and getting off. There are three modes a Segway can be in: power assist, balance, and off. Power assist mode is when you are walking beside it, as it just motors along with you. Balance mode is what you ride with. In balance mode leaning forward causes you to move forward, leaning back stops (or goes backwards). Steering is done with a grip on the left handle.

A Segway in balance mode is very much like a canoe – you can be told how to get in and out of one, but until you actually do it you will never learn. The first time you step on to one you have no idea what to expect, and you end up bucking back and forth. If you get on and lean forward you will start moving, and the first time you do that you will overcompensate backwards, and forwards, and back, until you either get off or figure it out. Beyond that, you just have to figure out how not to fly off when you’re turning at speed.

One other novel feature is the keys that start them. Each Segway has three keys, color-coded as black, yellow, and red. The keys are electronic, coded in some way that corresponds to the individual unit as an anti-theft practice. You activate the unit by passing the key across two terminals, completing a circuit. Each key makes the unit function differently, with a different top speed and turning rates. Naturally, the red key is the most dangerous, permitting the top speed of 12.5 MPH and insane rates of turning. The tour started with the black key, moved to the yellow once we were over in Algiers, and then back to black in the French Quarter. It was hard to go back to the black key, as I decided to be slightly irresponsible and chase some pigeons and forgot that you can’t turn as fast with black as you could with yellow. I think the right term is “near miss.”

The tour was supposed to be eight people, but the other four didn’t show up so my three companions and I got to do a lot of excessive messing around on the machines, especially while waiting for the ferry. Now that I know how to ride one, I wish they weren’t so expensive. $5000 seems a bit much for them (even $3000 on eBay is a lot), and it’s no wonder the tour costs $65. Then again, at the rate I was drinking I probably would have consumed $65 worth of beer, anyhow. 🙂