August 17, 2011

I know that as an editor at a travel magazine I reallyshould have more refined tastes. But secretly, I’ve always wanted to ride aSegway around a city. Whenever happy tourists have whizzed past me in D.C. or SanFrancisco, I’ve been a little jealous, but my travel companions are generallyof the type who would rather walk barefoot on burning asphalt than be caughtdead on the funny-looking two-wheeled contraptions.

So perhaps it was fate that led a Segway tour guide to zippast me near Millennium Park in Chicago a few weeks ago... when I was wanderingaround aimlessly, looking for something fun and different to do, and wasactually alone for once! Without hesitation I dialed the number on the back ofhis T-shirt and learned that an afternoon tour was going to begin in half anhour. Unencumbered by too-cool travel buddies, I ran over to the Bike and Roll Chicago stand on Randolph Street to sign up.

After a few important questions (“Am I going to die?” “Howsafe are these things?” “Can I back out at any time?” “Are you sure I’m notgoing to die?”—I’m a little bit of a fraidycat), I donned a flowered helmet(I was beginning to see why my friends are prone to mocking this activity) andjoined a group of a dozen other aspiring Segway-ers in Grant Park for a lessonwith two tour guides.

I got the hang of it far quicker than I’d expected, andbefore I knew it I was zipping along myself at breakneck maximum speeds (awhopping 12 mph) past Buckingham Fountain, Soldier Field, Shedd Aquarium, AdlerPlanetarium, and all along the waterfront. The highlight was a peaceful,uninterrupted 10-minute glide through Northerly Island, with its gorgeousscenery. All along the way, our awesome guides gave us tidbits of Chicagohistory and fun factoids (Northerly Island’s beautiful parkland was once thesite of an airport—who would have guessed?). It’s not a comprehensive enoughtour for people just getting to know Chicago, but for those of us who have beenmany times and are looking for a new adventure, it was perfect.

So while it might not be the most sophisticated way toexplore a city, it is fun, and different. On a beautiful day in a beautifulplace, there’s nothing like the feeling of the wind in your helmet.

Sarah Khan is a copy editor at Travel + Leisure. You canfollow her on Twitter @BySarahKhan.

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