WINSTON-SALEM — Tracy Ward celebrated her birthday last month by gliding through the Washington Park neighborhood on a Segway.Her tour of the community was through Triad ECO Adventures.
“I’d always wanted to do it,” Ward said of riding a Segway. “It looked like fun, so I checked it out online and signed up.”
A Segway Personal Transporter is a self-balancing, electric-powered transportation device.
Triad ECO Adventures is one of two newly opened Segway tour companies in Winston-Salem. The other is Revolution Gliding Tours.
Both companies offer fully-narrated, guided tours that include some of the old and newly developed areas of downtown. Customers must sign a waiver to take the tours, but the companies provide training prior to the tours.
Triad ECO Adventures opened in the spring of this year. The company has an office in a former Duke Power building at 176 YWCA Way, off South Main Street, across from the Gateway YWCA.
A sequence of events led founder Hal Boyle to come up with the idea for Triad ECO Adventures. Shortly after he sold paving company Cactx Surfaces in 2011, his father, Walter, had a stroke. The father and son would swim regularly at the Gateway YWCA so Boyle knew of the old Duke Power building.
He was ready to start over as an entrepreneur and create new businesses so he bought the old building in December 2012.
He was familiar with Segway tours from his 37 years of going to conventions in large cities such as Baltimore, Chicago and Raleigh when he owned the paving company.
“I didn’t play golf so I took Segway tours and rented bicycles,” Boyle said.
He said it’s unusual for a town the size of Winston-Salem to have Segway tour companies.
Some people told Boyle that his new venture would fail, that there wouldn’t be enough business to support it.
“So we’re starting out slow,” he said.
Early on, his company had seven Segway personal transporters but has increased the number to 13.
Triad ECO Adventures has three scheduled tours a day with rotating tours. They begin and end at the company’s office on YWCA Way. Tours include the Segs-N-The-City Tour of downtown Winston-Salem and the Historic Washington Park Tour. The 2 ½-hour tours cost $55.
Ward, who took the Washington Park tour with her friend, Maria Jones, said she had fun.
“It’s nice to see the different parts of Winston-Salem,” Ward said during a tour pit stop at Washington Perk, a grocery, coffee bar and deli on West Acadia Avenue. “I’ve been here 10 years and actually hadn’t seen all of this neighborhood.”
Roy Collette of Kernersville and his wife, Joanna, were on the same tour.
“Just the history and the beauty of Washington Park astounded me because I had never been in that area before,” Collette said.
He liked the possibility of using Segway tours to reward office personnel in his Nationwide insurance agency in High Point or inviting out-of-state friends on a tour.
“We could bring them over and show them what Winston-Salem has to offer,” Collette said.
Triad ECO Adventures has other tours in the works and is also a Segway authorized dealer. The company is also planning other projects, including stand-up paddleboard lessons and tours, bicycle rentals, day hikes and a mobile operation for special events such as weddings, parties and corporate events.
Boyle said they like talking to folks in the community about Winston-Salem’s history and welcomes native history buffs who could teach company guides different things about the city.
“I think Winston-Salem rocks,” he said.
Revolution Gliding Tours starts its Segway tours at the New Winston Museum at 713 S. Marshall St., just below Academy Street. Customers get a chance to see some of the exhibits in the museum aimed at preserving the cultural history of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.
Joey Burdette, a paralegal, and Terry Miller, a retail manager, opened Revolution Gliding Tours in mid-July.
When they moved to Winston-Salem from Raleigh more than a year ago, there was a lot to see and do. Each week they found a new restaurant or gallery to visit for the first time.
In 2012, while on vacation, they signed up for a Segway tour in Asheville. It was just the two of them and a guide, who people along the tour knew by name.
“People waved at us,” Burdette said.
He said they returned home with the intention of recreating that specific experience of community and started Revolution Gliding Tours.
“We limit our tours to just the guide and four people,” Burdette said. “It’s to preserve that intimacy, to get to know people, start a dialogue, a conversation.”
Their two-hour tours of downtown Winston-Salem include a bit of Old Salem, the strollway into downtown, the research park, Trade Street and West End areas. The Sights of Winston-Salem tour highlights the arts areas of the city. The price is $55.
“I start off with saying, ‘We’re not a history tour. I’m not going to give you dates, but if you know of something really cool as we go along, stop me and point it out so that I can tell other people about it,’” Burdette said.
Revolution Gliding Tours typically makes a stop mid-way through a tour.
“Right now we’ve purchased truffles from Haute Chocolate (on Burke Street) and we give people a little surprise,” Burdette said.
He said he and Miller like to get to know operators of different businesses.
“We need to be cheerleaders for the businesses that are along the route,” Burdette said. “Our success is really dependent on the success of downtown in general. We can’t run a tour going past empty storefronts.”
Customers are primarily local folks at this point, but the company has also been attracting tourists from out of state.
Revolution Gliding Tours has five Segways, but Burdette said they want to expand the business and offer more tours.
He believes downtown has the potential to attract thousands more people because of the various apartments and other projects under development in the area.
“They’ll all have relatives that are coming in town that need something to do during the day,” he said. “We can certainly do that.”
Pamela Butler of Tobaccoville recently got three of her friends — Nancy Smith and Pam Helms of Pfafftown and Dana Dinkins of Tobaccoville — to take a Segway tour through Revolution Gliding Tours.
“It was something we haven’t done before,” Butler said. “It was something different.”
Helms said she liked hearing about some of Winston-Salem’s history.
“I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about all the buildings down here with all the smoke stacks and R.J. Reynolds (Tobacco Co.) and some of the history there, and the new developments.”