How to Dweeb it up in Atlanta (342nd new thing).
December 3, 2012 § Leave a comment
I’ve done quite a few dorky things is my life. I have even nerded out quite a bit since I turned 29. I used to regularly feel embarrassed about silly things I would do and say, but these days I embrace the effortlessness of goofy geekiness. And on Day Three Hundred Forty-Two I grabbed embarrassment in a giant bear hug and embarked on the most intentionally awkward task of my twenty-ninth year: I went on a Segway Tour of Atlanta. And brought Mr. Sensible himself along for the ride.
This was another of those half-off deals purchased online. I had bought it months earlier and finally scheduled the tour on a day both Patrick and I had free. After dragging him through the Family Feud taping on Day 189, I was really surprised he also agreed to this outing. Bonus points for him!
We arrived at the Segway Tours of Atlanta office a few minutes late after navigating a parking spot in Downtown Atlanta. We were greeted by a man in a long black wool coat and a helmet. “Oh,” he sighed, relieved. “I’m glad you made it or I wouldn’t have earned money today. You’re the only tour.” Always good to start off on the right foot.
We signed some waivers releasing City Segway Tours from danger should we klutz ourselves up or get hit by an errant segway and then relaxed in some hard plastic chairs to watch our “Intro to Segway” video.
The video showed healthy people in helmets smilingly navigate woodland paths strewn with wildflowers and sunshine. So this is how you ride a Segway. Protective dads guided their young over a curb and along a sidewalk. Everyone was blissfully cheerful. I couldn’t wait to try one of my own.
We picked out our helmets and followed our guide (I think his name is Doug so we’ll call him that) out to where three machines were standing before the glass fronted entrance. Like magic they had appeared while we had been inside. Doug walked us across the street with the Segways and began to go over instructions. “Lean forward to go forward. Pull back to stop. Lean to the left and tilt the handlebars so to turn a circle.”
I jumped on first. It was surprisingly easy to get the hang of. Within a couple minutes I was racing up and down the sidewalk, turning pirouettes in a fit of showing off. Patrick also managed to get the jist of the Segway rather quickly, despite a jerky beginning. Then off we went to explore our city.
Doug began his tour in the adjacent Centennial Olympic Park. We stopped by a fan shaped sculpture as our guide led us in close to inspect the markings where Eric Rudolph’s bomb went off during the 1996 Olympics, forever scarring the metal. Doug talked more about the Olympics and how they brought him here from Cleveland for work in 1995. He had recently been laid off from his job, but as he looked on the bright side, “I used to just be a flight attendant, but now I’m a Captain!” as he leaned forward to lead us to our next stop.
We crossed the road to The Tabernacle where we were informed that the building used to be a church and now is often a music venue. Patrick gave me a look when I mentioned he had promoted a show there the other night. Doug’s face deflated as he worried that he wouldn’t be able to tell us new and interesting things about the city. It was awkward.
But not as awkward as rolling through the streets of my alma mater while bored twenty year olds glared at you. We scooted through scores of college students on the campus of Georgia State University as they barely moved to let us through. I had the stupid grin of someone who finds a moment so absurd that laughter is the only option. Patrick wore a little more of a scowl, which made me smile even more enthusiastically. We stood at least a head taller than any pedestrians and I wondered how many times a given student had been plagued by a similar Segway tour. So I laughed harder, a maniac in a helmet standing on a crazy rolling contraption twisting through the streets.
We moved from the GSU campus past Underground Atlanta and on to the capital building. Doug informed us that the “Miss Freedom” statue atop the gold dome of the building was actually built in Ohio for their state capital, but was saved by Georgia when the Midwestern state came into money problems. Thanks, Ohio.
We posed for a few photos in front of the Atlanta landmark and then moved on to the Immaculate Conception Church where my clumsiness caught up with me. The sun was shining at a fantastic angle behind the first Catholic church in the city so I decided to capture the scene on my phone. Unfortunately, as I rested the wheels of my transportation against the curb, I leaned forward a hair too much and essentially fell of the Segway. I caught myself straddling the post, half on the curb and half off. I guess these weren’t the same vehicles featured in the Intro video we had watched earlier. With nothing more than my ego bruised I got my picture standing on solid ground and ignored Doug’s comment about, “This is why we always wear helmets.”
Next we passed by the Terminal Rail Station, now a federal building, and learned that at one point Atlanta was close to being named Terminus. How Sci-Fi. We delved into more Atlanta history and architecture when we followed up the stop at Terminal Station with a visit to the place where the old Carnegie Library once stood. The original marble entrance stands nearby in homage. And as I know from my Atlanta Prison Farm tour, other marble pieces of the library lie amongst weeds in a field belonging to the city.
We stopped by the tallest building in Atlanta before a brief repose at the Varsity and an unexpected bonus journey around GA Tech. Apparently since Patrick and I were so quick to learn the maneuvering of the Segway, we had extra time. I was happy for the bonus, but after the two and a half hours of Segway riding we had done thus far, I was pretty knackered.
We rolled around the campus briefly before hitting Tech Parkway and moving back to Centennial Olympic Park. On the way Doug stepped off his wheels to put out a fire possibly started by an errant smoker. Not cool, smoker!
We capped off our educational tour with a little “fun” (Doug’s words). Centennial Park boasts circular green spaces with paved walkways around the outside of the foliage. Maybe they are in the shape of Olympic rings, who knows. Either way, they are a Segway rider’s playground. Patrick followed Doug and I followed Patrick and we looped around the park in crazy figure eights in the second most absurd activity of the day (the first being rolling through a crowded urban campus). Patrick glanced back several times with a “What the hell?” sort of expression across his face. It made me laugh even harder as I whipped around the bends, nearly tipping over once or twice. As we raced back to the offices to end our journey, I pulled out my phone to capture some video.
Warning: it’s not super entertaining, but you may get a glimpse of the absurd fun Segways can bring into your life.
We pulled to a stop outside of the office and Doug reached out his hand to shake ours. I inelegantly thrust his tip money into his outstretched palm, in a manner I somehow envisioned as being “slick.” Patrick looked at me with laughter dancing in the corner of his eyes. So dumb. We still had to go inside to get back the credit card on hold and turn in our helmets. And when we did the woman manning the desk gently encouraged us to not forget to tip Doug.
He didn’t say anything about how we’d already been through that informality and I just turned bright red and pivoted to leave. At this point my embarrassment had overcome my sense of humor and I just wanted to be in a car. I sure do hope he didn’t let his coworker think he’d been stiffed.
So if you’re looking for something fun to do with out-of-town guests, or maybe you just want to pretend to be a mall cop for a day around the city, I would definitely recommend a Segway tour. Except maybe don’t opt for the three hour version. Half that time should be plenty. And just so you know, there’s probably a tip jar at the end of the tour so you don’t have to palm it like a cool kid.