Current Laurel Park residents have probably noticed a caravan of Segways passing by from time to time. They are participants on a guided tour of Historic Laurel Park courtesy of Florida Ever-Glides. According to their Web site, “Florida Ever-Glides Inc. originated the Segway Guided Tour concept in the United States in August 2003. With over 25,000 tour guests, this has made us the #1 mid-market Segway Guided Tour experience nationally!”
Here’s an excerpt from a Washington Post article by staff writer Cindy Loose:
Given its size, Sarasota, with a year-round population of about 50,000, is amazingly cosmopolitan, with its own ballet company and an acclaimed opera house. We scope out the live theater offerings that week at several major venues and settle on a movie in the Burns Court Cinema, an old, tiny, family-owned theater that offers art-house and foreign films.
Much as we enjoy this city — its beaches, relaxing pace and urbanity — the highlight of our trip awaits: Sarasota by Segway.
The rain of the previous day has caused the other members of our tour to cancel this morning, so instead of the maximum of six Segway riders, my friend and I share the complete attention of the Jacobsons. The 85-pound Segways we are each assigned basically propel themselves to the parking lot; we simply guide them with a single hand. Guide Tom Jacobson sets up cones for us to practice gliding around. It takes just a few minutes to get the feel of standing, feet flat, on what is basically a laptop computer monitoring every move we make. I don’t begin to understand how it works, but Tom and Janey talk about gyroscopes and computer chips that keep the Segway balanced.
To move forward you simply lean forward toward the handlebar. There are no brakes: The Segway stops instantly if you straighten your stance. Lean back slightly and it goes backward. Turn the left handle on the handlebar and the Segway turns. The machine is only a few inches wider than your body and turns as quickly and smoothly as an unaided human body. In fact, it soon seems like part of you. I feel no more obtrusive on the sidewalk, and don’t feel any more of a danger to others, than I would walking down the street — assuming I curb my enthusiasm for speed. The further you lean forward, the faster you go.
On wide-open spaces, the Segway can travel up to 12 mph. However, that’s a pace for experienced drivers on a straight-away, and it requires you to insert a key in a special “black” or expert ignition.Tom and Janey start us out on an ignition switch that limits us to 6 mph. We go much slower as we “stroll” the city streets and then wind through the narrow sidewalks of an artists’ colony, where more than 40 craftspeople have taken up residence in a series of brightly painted bungalows. It’s an extremely cool community just blocks from the heart of downtown that we would have missed were it not for our Segway tour. Unfortunately, we discover it too late to return to shop while the artists are at work.
The tour takes us through an area of homes built in the 1920s and past the Sarasota Opera House. The building, erected in 1926, was once a theater that offered a stage to Will Rogers, the Ziegfeld Follies and Elvis Presley.
Traveling down residential streets and sidewalks, we reach the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, home of 20,000 plants. We’re not allowed to glide inside — permission may be sought at a later date — but even from outside we can catch glimpses of some of the 6,000 orchids for which the gardens are famed.
I’ve always enjoyed seeing the Segway tours pass by. It reminds me that Laurel Park truly is a special place, one thousands of people are willing to pay to simply pass through! And even though Florida Ever-Glides caters primarily to tourists, a Segway tour is a great way to explore Laurel Park for those considering moving here. Florida Ever-Glides can be reached at 941-363-9556.