During a fun winter vacation to South Padre I saw a couple people riding Segways and my wife and I both said "let's do that!" So I immediately called SegValley Tours and booked the "a little bit of everything and beach" one and half hour tour. And we had a blast exploring South Padre Island and riding on the beach.
SegValley Tours is located in the heart of South Padre Island and is a small family owned business that opened for business in 2014 and they are the only Segway dealership and tour company in the Rio Grande Valley. They don't rent Segways but they do offer a variety of tours with a guide
We showed up at the SegValley office on South Padre Island and were warmly greeted by Brett who was our guide for the tour. Brett migrated down from the frozen tundra of Minneapolis and is extremely outgoing and in love with his job and South Padre Island. We don't have to worry about some dude trying to hijack our Segway because Brett is 270 pounds, all muscle, a Marine veteran, and he bench presses over 280 pounds.
After some instructions from Brett he put us on a Segway in the office and had us ride it back and forth in the office. The wife did great and watching her I had visions of me ruining the $7000 Segway by crashing into the table and running through the wall. But to my surprise my test ride went well.
I was shocked to find out how easy it is to ride one of these Segways. You simply shift your weight forward or backward to move forward or backward and push down on the left or right handle bar or leaning left or right to turn. The more you lean forward the faster you go - up to 12 miles and hour which seems like 50. Amazing! The Segway detects the change in its center of mass using an advanced microprocessor control system. This microprocessor "brain" of the Segway takes information from 5 gyroscopic sensors which tells the onboard computer how much the Segway is leaning. The more the machine leans, the more the motors turn the wheels in the direction needed to keep the Segway upright. When the operator leans to the side, the Segway adjusts motor speed and direction of each wheel to make a safe and controlled turn. This self balancing system is what is so remarkable about this machine.
We were riding X2 Segways with a top speed of 12 miles an hour and equipped with 3 pound all terrain beach tires.. The big balloon tires take all of the bounce out of the ride making for a smooth ride and provide the ability to handle any terrain including the South Padre Island beach and sand dunes. The Segway maintains it's stability with 5 gyros, 3 of which are active at all times while the other 2 act as a fail safe.
After we passed our test in the office, we had one more test before the tour - make a sharp turn and head down a steep narrow ramp to the road to start our tour. Brett stood stoic at the bottom of the ramp ready to catch us before we smashed into a parked car or keep going out into and across the street. We made it without rolling over Brett!
In single file we followed Brett down a narrow side walk - again I had visions of riding off the the sidewalk, loosing control, and getting flattened by a golf cart or car! But after a couple minutes and some "S" turns I felt like I had mastered my Segway and I started leaning forward to go faster. I wasn't ready to go quite as fast as Brett or try turning around and talking to us or riding one handed or holding a phone and trying to take a selfie. I think my hands were frozen to the handle bars and as such my pictures or our tour are limited because I was afraid to take my hands off of the Segways handlebars - I had a vision of me falling flat in the sand and watching the Segway ride into the ocean!
Brett led us down the sidewalk, along some back streets, and over to the largest sandcastle in the United States where he departed with some interesting facts about how the sandcastle was created and maintained. Spread around South Padre Island are around 30 sculptures that are constantly being maintained, repaired, added to and re-carved. It took over 40,000 hours to sculpt one of the sandcastles below.
From the sandcastles we rode to the "donut hole." Our first off road experience in the dirt to test our ability to go up and down some small hills and make some tight turns on the dirt. We had a blast going up and down the hills and doing twists and turns in the dirt. Apparently we passed this test because we zoomed off toward the beach.
Our first stop after the "donut hole" was at the Christ of the Fishermen statue in Isla Blanca Park.
The statue sits on the edge of Laguna Madre Bay and is a tribute to shrimp fisherman who lost their lives at sea. The statue is standing on top over several blocks of granite with plaques to the lost fisherman. Brett was a wealth of information about the statue, the bay, South Padre Island, and some of the best restaurants and beach bars (I took notes) on the Island.
From the statue, Brett led us to the beach and said "go for it, have fun!" And for 15 minutes or so we rode through the sand, tried to outrace the waves flowing up on the beach, and rode over into the soft sand. We had a blast - the Segways are amazing!
All too soon it was time to head back to the office to return the Segways. What a fun hour and a half and six or seven mile tour. Thanks Brett - you're a great tour guide. Next year we'll sign up for the Port Isabel tour!