July 30, 2011
Segway into summer on Stonewall Resorts' high-tech tour (Video)
Kenny Kemp
New Segway riders complete a traffic cone obstacle course before venturing out on Stonewall Resort's trails.

ROANOKE, W.Va. -- Anyone curious about riding a Segway personal transporter -- without having to pay the self-balancing vehicle's $7,000 purchase price -- might want to visit Stonewall Resort, where a fleet of seven Segways is available for guided tours.

"Everyone who has been on one of our Segways has really enjoyed the experience," said Jennifer Nelson, who leads hourlong tours aboard the two-wheeled electric vehicles starting from Stonewall Resort's new Roanoke Activities Plaza. "It's been fun having the Segways here. Each group of riders is a little different in how fast they pick it up, and how much they want to do."

Segway tours are offered at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. daily, or at other pre-arranged times for groups of six. Those who sign up for the rides sign a liability waiver, watch a 15-minute instructional video, put on a helmet, and then begin a personal training session with resort guides.

"Anyone at least 16 years old can ride them, whether or not they're lodge guests," said Nelson, the recreation and outdoor services manager at Stonewall Resort. "Reservations are needed, though."

Riders don't just climb aboard their rental Segway and hit the trail.  It takes a few minutes to get adjusted to the transporter's self-balancing riding platform. Once that task is accomplished, and riders have practiced getting on and off of the vehicles, another few minutes are needed to become comfortable with the Segway's steering and acceleration systems.

Riders lean forward to move forward. The more pronounced the lean, the faster the transporter travels. Slowing and stopping is achieved by leaning back. Side-to-side motion is determined by the direction in which the rider leans and turns the Segway's upright handlebar.

After learning the basics of the basics, a brief guided shakedown ride is taken to get riders used to uphill and downhill propulsion, and riding on gentle off-trail terrain. After negotiating a cone-studded obstacle course in a parking lot and practicing driving up and down embankments, riders are ready to follow their guides along a series of paved walkways, dirt trails and grassy parkland to the shoreline of Stonewall Jackson Lake and back to the Roanoke Activities Plaza.

"The top speed of the Segways is 6.5 miles per hour in the turtle mode, which we use for beginners on the tours, but they can go 12.5 miles an hour in the rabbit mode," said guide Carrie Harpold.

"We're looking to eventually expand our tours and make use of some different trails," said Nelson.

Elsewhere in West Virginia, Segway tours are also available at Snowshoe Mountain Resort in Pocahontas County and Oglebay Resort in Wheeling.

Stonewall Resort's new Roanoke Activities Plaza, located in a former conference building adjacent to the state park office, offers visitors an 18-foot climbing wall, a variety of arcade games, a Wii station and television monitor, a mini-golf course and a snack bar with indoor and outdoor seating.

New outdoor activities offered adjacent to the plaza include basketball and volleyball courts, aqua cycles for lake cruising, a disc golf course and a half-mile fitness trail with 10 exercise stations.

Stonewall Resort's Segway tours, which run from 50 to 70 minutes, cost $40 per person, plus tax. Reservations can be made by calling 888-278-8150. A $3 per car day use fee is also charged for visitors using Stonewall Resort facilities.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.

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