It was one of those beautiful Florida mornings- sun was shining, humidity was low, and I was super excited. Today I was going to get on a Segway, possibly even ride it well, and hey, maybe even not crash into something or someone. This is about that experience, enjoy!
Thanks to good Disney friends, I was gifted this experience- so first I want to thank Laurie and her wonderful new husband for this amazing opportunity. I met them at Guest Relations inside Epcot at 9:15 a.m. We had to sign a waiver of basically not suing Disney if we were clutzy on the Segways, order our breakfast off the menu provided, grab our name tag, and then also had to fill in our address on a separate sheet which we were told later why. Once our group had all checked in, we headed over with our guides Bobbi and Torsten (I know, cool name, right?) to the old Innoventions area that used to let the public try the Segways out.
We tried on helmets, large was to big on my head, medium was to tight, so we had to go large and try to just tighten it as much as possible. Mine fell back occasionally, but neither Guide was concerned about it so I was fine. Bobbi demonstrated for us what getting on and off would be like, powering it on, stopping it, and so on. They make it look so easy! I turned to Laurie at one point and said “I am so nervous.” People, it’s like riding a bike for the first time- or as I compared it during class to driving on the highway for the first time. You just hold on and pray.
Next they take you to the area outside the “mega dome” and have you practice getting on and off the Segway. You would think this couldn’t be that hard, but it’s truly a mind game. It didn’t help that I had just watched “America’s Funniest Home Videos” this past Sunday where the woman got off her Segway and fell hard because it moved out from under her. It’s a lot of trust – I will say that. You also have this need to look down when stepping on something so sensitive, but the key is to make sure your feet are a little past the center mark, and then step up like you are getting on a stair master. Oh, by the way, that stair master has wheels! So once you get up on the thing, you now have to keep it from careening forward without you even trying!
It’s all in your balance- like a bear on a ball at the circus or a logger on a log in the water. You just never stay still- that’s what I had to get used to. The Segway is constantly checking your balance, and because you are breathing and it is checking, you never stay still. So even as he would talk to us about anything, we were all always moving, it was almost kind of comical- like kindergarten kids who can’t keep still.
After we learned the basics, they take you up and down you first training hill. I did fine going up, but going down I panicked and I grabbed for the railing instead of just leaning back. That was the hardest part- the stopping. To convince yourself that you can lean back and it will not only stop, but that you won’t meet the ground while doing it. Bobbi helped stop my Segway as I was out of control on the hill, and the following time I was able to stop. You have to “dig in” you heels and almost play the “trust game” by leaning back into it. Yeah, “trust me” it was a weird feeling to do on a moving platform beneath you.
After a crash course in braking and stopping, we headed out into the great blue yonder, or as some people call it “Future World.” Now, after we left the comfort of our happy “mega dome” area, I was quite nervous to take this puppy out on the open road. I am in the Parks to know enough how many people don’t pay attention to where they are walking, and how much I have to navigate while I am on the safety of my own two feet. Being on a Segway, trying to stay tight in the line with your group, oh and that kid who thought it would be funny to cut in front of me… nerve wracking. BUT I have to say, sailing through the area by “Journey into Imagination”, where it’s all open there and sadly no one usually is, it was quite exhilarating.
They took us to the back stage of “The Land” where we got to park them for the first time. I actually did it without making a second movie for “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and we took a break for breakfast. Yes, the “Keep Moving Forward, which seems to be my screaming anthem these days, tour allows you to have a wonderful breakfast, make some new friends, and just take a second to honestly give your feet a rest. You would not believe how those make your feet and calves feel- very sore. But at this point, mine were fine, it was later I could feel it. We ate our breakfast platters in the 30 minutes given, a potty break, and we were back in the ally way ready to take on the “World” again!
At this point we were given headsets so we could hear our guide, Torsten, tell us all about the hidden gems of the World Showcase- awesome! They were easy to put on your ear (NOT an Iphone ear bud) and attach the main console to a belt buckle- with the wire behind your back it never became a problem while operating the Segway.
** Also on the note of storing things properly, they had storage bags on each unit to put your purse in- not large enough for a backpack, possibly a small one, but they are on each Segway so you had your items with you at all times or they locked them up until after the Tour.
We started on the Mexico side, and we started during the opening of not only World Showcase, but remember, Food and Wine is also going on. I swear I will make a T-Shirt that says “I survived a Segway Tour during the Food and Wine Festival.” Here is the thing people, it’s normally not too busy back there when they first open, normally it’s almost a ghost town. But during Food and Wine, it’s like having people as traffic cones that you have to constantly swerve around. They ask you to keep the line tight, like a row of ducks, but it becomes hard when people are ducking in front of you or walking WAY to close. If you see a Segway Tour coming your way, move over please- it will save you the time and your children of being accidentally hit. Keep in mind, the people on those Segways, most of the time, just learned “how to ride that bike” an hour ago.
We got to test our driving abilities in China, Germany, Italy, America, Japan, and the U.K. Now, it you asked me which one was the hardest, I would have to say the bridge going from France to the U.K. Here’s the thing- when you are climbing a hill on one of these things, you have to give a lot of weight forward on it- it’s not a “comfortable” feel. I was leaning so much I thought the sucker was going to tip over! By the time I got to the top of the hill, it had to balance again, and that freaked me out a bit. Poor Laurie almost crashed into me because my Segway felt like it didn’t want to move- so I just calmly and ironically “moved forward” again and it went. Going down was like tapping the brakes on a car, you just occasionally leaned back every few seconds and it kept me from going full speed into the Yorkshire Fish N Chips shop. The only other spot that was tricky was the small bridges in Japan- the small walk way area that leads up past the large Pagoda in the front left area. Every time you went over a bridge, it had to balance you again and it just felt like I was trying to stand straight on ice. I did it, but it was a weird feeling.
Torsten gave out some FABULOUS information about the Countries that I did not know, and because I was focusing on driving, I had no way of writing anything down. It’s for the best, that way YOU can find out for yourself on this tour! They allowed us to take pictures in the Italy area near the lagoon, and I convinced our group to take a group shot, which turned out great! You can also park here and take a break as well, like I said, my feet started to feel sore and almost burning at points. You are using muscles that maybe we don’t all use every day, and for straight hours, it can be taxing on your muscles. In fact when we got off of them at the end, we were told to not sit for a long time- keep walking. They said our legs will actually freeze up if we sat down, and I believed them! My legs were SHAKING after I got down off of it- I had the “jimmy leg!” (Obscure Seinfeld Reference).
It was meant to be a 3 hour tour, a 3 hour tour- but it went slightly over that. It began at 9:30 a.ma, and ended at 12:45. We were supposed to get a Segway pin, but the new ones for this tour are not in yet, for us anyways, so they are mailing it to us. He was going to give us the old ones, but they were out of stock so we got the other tour’s pin “Behind the scenes of Future World” or something like that- hey, I’ll take it!
I LOVED it- even though I was terrified at times, it was an amazing experience. I DO think it is worth the money to not only learn and ride a Segway (they say it is our future transportation) but to also learn so many cool things about the World Showcase. You all know how much I am in the Parks and I didn’t know 75% of what he told us, so don’t go into it thinking you know everything about Disney. I can also tell you that in our group we had one person with a disability and also older folks who rode and drove them just fine- don’t let anything stop you from trying. But, they do have age and weight restrictions, so check out DisneyParks.com to see if you qualify to ride it. Thanks again to my great friends who gave me this chance to try them out, and to our guides for making us laugh like crazy along the way. Have a great day everyone!!
***Side Note- I would have taken more pictures but I was too focused on concentrating on not crashing. You have to be watching the person in front of you, and whats going on in front of them, there is no time to really “take pictures” while you are operating it. Just a heads up for those wondering.