From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 5 - May 1, 2003
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

And the race is on

by Rhonda Swain

Anyone who ventured into the Summit Building in Pinedale last Thursday between 11 a.m. and noon was in for a definite treat: a hands-on demonstration of one of America's newest means of personal conveyance, or a human transporter (HT), according to literature on the Internet.

Linda Whitaker, the proud owner of one of the first Segways to hit the markets this year, provided several impromptu, but gracious, demos of her 'vehicle' to those who happened into the hallway. Three members of the Examiner staff, KPIN's Bob Rule, Lenore Percy of Rendezvous Travel and Geri Winters from All American Fuel were among those who raced up and down the hall after a brief course on the workings of the Segway. Everyone sported a huge grin!

As Linda and her husband, Larry, were taking the Segway from their vehicle, she started explaining the scooter-type: It has three keys (the key determines the speed), gyroscopes and a tilt sensor (for balance), a battery-powered motor (runs up to 12.5 miles per hour), and even a kickstand.

I was dumbstruck as she led it into the office building much like I would lead my horse. (It has a power assist mode that allows you to lead it, even up and down stairs!)

When we got in the building, she got down to business, explaining how to get on it and how to use your weight to stop and go, after you and the Segway are in sync about your balance.

Then she asked if I wanted to try it - of course I did! She steadied my steed as I mounted and we got my balance figured out - and I could have it sit still without wobbling forward and backward. Then she kind of led it (and me) until I was comfortable. She told me to turn it, slowly at first, because it turns more or less on itself and does it quickly.

Then she turned me loose - and what a kick! You use your weight to stop and go - I had a tendency to say "Whoa" a lot - and my co-workers laughed a lot! And yes, it will turn on itself.

After my turn, she gave Deanne Swain and Delsa Allen each a try. Before she and Larry finally loaded the HT up, Linda must have demo'ed her Segway for 10 people.

Linda and Larry first saw Segways in South Beach, Fla., where they saw a couple riding them. It turned out the couple won their scooter-types after writing essays on "Why We Need a Segway." They said the Miami police use them, and the U.S. Postal Service is looking into them.

Linda found her vehicle on the Internet and put a down payment on it; it took three months for her to get it. She was surprised the first part of March when she received a letter stating that her Segway was ready for shipping, but she learned she had to attend a two-day course of instruction before she could take possession.

"It was there in the fine print," Linda said of the class, which was held in Denver. Her friend Cyd Goodrich went to Denver with her and participated in the course as well. Linda and Cyd learned about the Segway through extensive videos, and took exams before heading to the final session. During that session, they were taken to a huge room, set up with a cone obstacle course, and allowed to ride the HT.

Linda said she did pretty well on the obstacle course, but "Cyd wiped out the course," she laughed.

Although the machine will go from six to 12 1/2 miles per hour, she said they were geared down to go only three mph at the class.

The Whitakers first purchased land in Sublette County six years ago, and moved here from Arkansas two years ago. They raise and show Quarter Horses for English pleasure, driving, jumping and western pleasure. With 18 brood mares and a stud in Yukon, Okla., most of their two-year-olds go to Arkansas for training; the western pleasure horses are trained in Tulsa, Okla.

The Whitakers have two daughters, Emily and Amy. Amy and her husband Ben Merryman break the two-year-olds in Rogers, Ark.

The show horses are part of the reason Linda bought the Segway. She said some of the venues where they show are huge, and if someone forgets something, it's a long walk. So, voila! Now they have an HT to get back and forth (no second riders, though!).

She said saddlebags are available for the Segway - you can get one for the handlebars and ones that sit above each tire.

From the way she instructed and helped everyone in riding her vehicle, I'd say Linda is either a born teacher or a born Segway rider, or maybe she just paid really good attention to her classes on the vehicle. At any rate, she should have fun in downtown Pinedale or on the show-horse circuit. But like she said, "You can't be shy if you own one, because everyone wants to know about it."

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