Viator staff are always taking the tours we offer on the site; it’s our business, so it makes sense. And every now and again a whole bunch of us take the afternoon off and do one of our tours as a group: that happened a few weeks ago in San Francisco, when we headed down to Fisherman’s Wharf to test out the San Francisco Segway Tour.
I remember back in 2001 when rumors about Dean Kamen and his new invention, code-named Ginger, apparently, that was going to change the world. Kamen is a legendary inventor who had done pioneering work on wheelchairs that could climb stairs, and the idea for a more general- purpose “personal transporter” grew from that. John Doerr, the doyen of Silicon Valley VCs, predicted Segway may be the fastest company to reach $1 billion in sales, while Steve Jobs said Segway would be as big a deal as the PC.
Well, none of that happened, not because Segways aren’t amazing, but — probably — because most people feel a little dorky when they ride one. If you had seen John on our Segway tour, well, you’d understand what I mean…
Anyway, the one place that Segways have found a real niche is as a sightseeing tour vehicle. Doing a sightseeing tour on a Segway is much more fun than a walking tour, and maybe even better than a bike tour: it’s certainly a lot less effort, you cover a whole lot of ground, so you see more, and you get the added fun of riding this amazing vehicle (and the added satisfaction of not falling off.)
Some locations are just made for Segways: ie they’re flat, there’s plenty to see, and the sights are widely spread out, so there’s a good reason to ride around! San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf fits this bill perfectly: you’d be walking all day if you wanted to see it all, but on a Segway you can cruise around most of it in a couple of hours, then walk back to the bits you want to explore more. Or not, as you please.
The Segway office and “training ground” is just by the cable car turnaround point, so it’s easy to find. Training doesn’t sound like fun but it turns out to be a laugh (see note re John, above) and we were all experts, truly, a half-hour later when we headed off for the tour. We did look dorky in our yellow vests, I’ll admit; and we were the object of many double-takes as tourists tried to figure out who and what we were.
Viator’s bike and Segway tours all follow a familiar pattern: a knowledgeable and generally amusing guide acts like a Mother Hen, making sure no-one gets left behind (John, again) while educating us as we go along. It’s hard to know what’s the best part: getting to know more about the Wharf area — and there’s a lot to know — or just cruisin’ on the Segway. Especially when the guide lets us take speed limiters off and we’re allowed to do 20mph. That’s pretty cool. And none of us fell off, which sounded impressive until we heard that out of about a hundred thousand people who’ve done the tour only five have ever fallen. But we were proud, anyway…