A segue from the past to the present | PostIndependent.com

A segue from the past to the present

Post Independent/Kelley Cox

Joel Karr is offering a newfangled way of looking at the oldest parts of Glenwood Springs.And in the process he’s drawing a few stares himself.Karr is the owner of Sacred Grounds Coffeehouse & Delicatessen on Grand Avenue downtown. People used to stopping there for a java jolt can get a lift of an entirely different sort now that Karr has begun providing Segway tours of the historical downtown area.Not surprisingly, his Segways are as much of an attraction as are the city’s historical sites.”I think those are the neatest things,” said Dee Gauger of Madison, Ind., when she saw Karr riding the two-wheeled, gyroscopically balanced devices at the Hotel Colorado.”I’m definitely going to do it,” Gauger said when Karr told her about his tours. “This will be something to write home about.”Karr drew smiles and waves aplenty as he took this reporter on a tour of some of the sites tour participants get to visit, such as the Hot Springs Pool, Yampah Spa & Vapor Caves, and buildings in the downtown core. Some people paused from photographing and videotaping local attractions to document the passing Segways.”Right now I’m just getting the public aware of it,” Karr said of his unique means of travel.Karr launched his tours a few weeks ago, after getting city approval.

“I’ve had people on the tours, it’s like, ‘Man, I couldn’t believe how fun that was,'” he said.Cindy Hines, director of the Frontier Historical Museum, got to try one.”I was surprised at how easy it was,” she said.She said she was worried about balancing on the Segway as she stood on it.”It’s pretty much foolproof, you almost can’t fall over,” she said.The museum offers a walking tour of Glenwood historical sites, and Karr borrowed from that tour and its accompanying narrative in creating his own version.”It’s a neat approach to kind of teaching people about the history,” Hines said of Karr’s new venture. “With heritage tourism being a huge thing right now this is a perfect fit.”She said historical tours on Segways provide for something of a dichotomy.”You’ve got this really high-tech way of looking around at old stuff,” Hines said.

Karr acknowledges the irony, but he said when he started looking into Segways, he discovered a popular use for them is organized historical tours. A pioneer years ago in providing computers for public Internet access at his coffee shop, Karr likewise thought the tours would be something new he could offer to bring in customers.City manager Jeff Hecksel said the city reviewed Karr’s plans mostly from a safety perspective. He noted that Karr can control the speed of the devices through the use of different keys.”Nobody’s going to be ripping down the sidewalk going 20 miles per hour, bowling down pedestrians, if Joel does what he says he will,” Hecksel said.Hecksel also tried out the Segway.”It was interesting. You have to get used to those things. It’s completely different from anything I’ve been on. You adjust to them pretty quickly once you figure out how they work.”Karr said he’s taught about 100 people how to ride Segways, and only about two lost their nerve.As I quickly learned, the device responds easily when you lean forward to accelerate and back to stop. At the same time, it keeps you from tilting too far in either direction. I found steering with a twist of the wrist on the handle to be a bit less intuitive, but Karr said a rider’s comfort level improves with time.His business venture could open up historic tours of downtown to people unable to do much walking. Karr said he’s seen some people who are generally confined to wheelchairs be able to ride Segways.”You wouldn’t believe the joy they have in their eyes. They’re like, ‘This makes me so mobile.'”

If Segways have a drawback, it’s the price, Karr said. They retail for about $5,000.He is charging $65 per person for tours, but also is offering introductory specials. The fee includes riding instruction before the tour begins.Tours last about two hours, including training time. Up to four people can be accommodated on each tour.Riders must be at least 14; Karr has taught people as old as 92.Karr said the Segways also could be used for shopping tours. And he’s thinking of doing food deliveries with them during the offseason.For more information about his tours, call 404-3216 or 928-8804.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com

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