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Cruising Lahaina on a Segway

May 27, 2013 - Leah Sherman

Ah, the Segway. It's the battery-operated personal transporter that was supposed to change the world when it was introduced in 2001.

I have a co-worker who purchased one of the earliest models. He'd ride it from his home in Wailuku to our office (also in Wailuku). And then the rest of us would joy ride around the parking lot during our dinner break. But, he said, riding home in the dark made him (understandably) nervous and then the battery died and replacing it would have been expensive, and that appeared to be the end of my Segway-ing experience.

But no.

Segway Maui offers guided, small-group tours through Lahaina and Iao Valley on Segways — obviously. And last week I opted for the Tuesday-morning “Lahaina Early Bird Segway Tour.” Let me just start by saying that an “early bird” tour that starts at 9 a.m. is my kind of “early bird” as I have no idea what 6 a.m (or even earlier, yikes!) looks like.

The Lahaina tours start at Segway Maui's store at 991 Limahana Place (turn at Pizza Hut and then turn right). Parking is available on the street or in the Sugar Cane Train lot.

After signing a waiver, you watch a safety video. The video, by the way, is terrifying. It shows a helmeted figure falling every which way off his (or her) Segway. I was touring with a family of four from New Jersey, and I had to agree with the wife when, after watching the video, she said, “I'm not sure I want to do this.”

Let's take a step back for a second and focus on what, exactly, a Segway is. According to Segway Maui's website (see link at right), “A Segway is a two-wheeled, self-balancing, battery-operated human transportation vehicle. It is operated in a standing position. . . . It is a non-motorized, eco-friendly machine.” I'd say Segways are most likely to be spotted in use by security personnel at airports or shopping centers. They are really handy in those situations because they allow a person to move rapidly (maximum speed of 12 mph) and are much more versatile that a golf cart-type vehicle.

OK, back to my Lahaina tour.

We shook off our post-video fears, donned helmets and fluorescent yellow safety vests and went outside for Segway-riding lessons. Each person was given a Segway (which each feature adjustable handlebars to accommodate people of varying heights and an attached bag to store wallets, phones, cameras, etc.) set in “turtle” mode — meaning you cannot go full speed — giving riders a chance to become comfortable. After getting on your Segway, you go through a few drills — going forward, going back, stopping, turning, weaving through cones. Once we'd mastered turtle mode, our Segways were set to regular mode and we went through the drills again. When we all felt good with regular mode, we tried going over some bumps and going up and down a hill. Then we were ready to go.

Just to be clear, the Segway was very stable and really easy to maneuver. I felt completely at ease. There is no reason to be scared.

Our tour guide was Teresa. And she was able to communicate with me and the other riders using hand signals and a one-way listening device, through which she told us where we were going and pointed out interesting things along the way.

The tour crossed Honoapiilani Highway and headed toward Front Street. We stopped at the Lahaina Jodo Mission and Mala Wharf before turning toward the “touristy” part of Front Street. We traveled on the sidewalk until we reached the Lahaina Center, at which point we moved to the street. We took Front Street to Lahaina Harbor, then circled the banyan tree before continuing down Front Street to Prison Street and the Lahaina prison (or Hale Pa‘ahao, according to the Lahaina Restoration Foundation website).

Granted, I don't live on the west side, but I've been on Maui for 12-plus years and I'd never been to the Lahaina Jodo Mission (which is beautiful) or the prison. I didn't even know there was an old prison on the street presumably named for it. So, see, you learn something new all the time.

After some time on the prison grounds, we reboarded our Segways and headed back toward the Segway Maui store, with a stop to check out the Sugar Cane Train locomotive.

Total amount of time spent on the Segway — right around 2 hours.

Afterward, I meet my husband on Front Street for lunch. As we strolled a few blocks from the parking lot to the restaurant, I came to the realization that walking is totally overrated. I need a Segway of my own.

Segway Maui has offers tours daily. Teresa told me that there is no set route for the Lahaina tours, so if there is something you want to see, let them know. Tours are limited to six people, but they do have enough transporters to accommodate more than one tour at a time. According to their website, various tour lengths are available and begin at $94. Kamaaina prices are 10 percent off. Riders must weigh between 100 and 260 pounds. Closed-toed shoes are required; sunscreen, sunglasses and bottled water are recommended. You are welcome to bring your camera but photos cannot be taken while you are on the Segway. Tour guides carry cameras and take pictures that are included in the tour price and can be emailed to you.

For more information, see Segway Maui's website or call (808) 661-8284.


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The first stop on my tour was at the Lahaina Jodo Mission.


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