Thursday, September 2, 2010

Riding along with Charlotte NC Tours

Posted By on Thu, Sep 2, 2010 at 10:52 AM

Four Segways are just sitting on the sidewalk outside a nondescript building across from the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

No one’s around but you’d assume they’re secure and just when you get close enough to investigate, you’re greeted warmly by employees of Charlotte NC Tours.

The company is a little over three years old and have been doing van, bike and walking tours of the city for a while but their Segway tours, which they’ve been doing for a year, are what people are really buzzing about.

At first, you feel silly strapping on a bike helmet for some quick Segway training as cars and passers-by gawk trying to figure out what’s going on. And after some shaky first few minutes, the strange burning sensation in your feet and advisement from guides Rodney Bauguass and Tremaine Tyson, you get the hang of it.

Baugass loves this stuff. Once the tour begins, he zips around effortlessly, way in front of the pack, looking back to make sure the flock is all there.

With us for this tour were Jason and Renee Geiger, celebrating their 7th wedding anniversary. The couple, who transplanted to Charlotte from Buffalo, got the hang of the Segway almost immediately and seemed enthusiastic about learning more about the city they’ve been in for a while now.

First stops: NASCAR Hall of Fame, Charlotte Convention Center and Harvey B. Gantt African-American Cultural Center. All were interesting but were really just to get our feet wet and to get us used to Bauguass’ style as a guide. See, for what he may have lacked in historical accuracy and architectural insight, he more than made up for with interesting tidbits and perspective. He had a story for everything; it was amazing. Tyson, our other guide, was really the history buff. Following from behind, he’d chime in occasionally with some details on what used to stand on this land, who built what and when, and its significance to the city.

After I took a spill on our way through The Green (see video below), we made a brief stop to explain the Radcliffe’s Flowers history and façade before we segued (pun intended) into the Wells Fargo Campus, including the Knight Theater and Bechtler Modern Art Museum.

Bauguass explained the meaning of the red clay before Tyson discussed the Bechtler family’s relationship with Andy Warhol, pointing out their family painting done by the legendary artist.

Tyson’s understanding of Charlotte’s history really stood out at Bank of America Stadium. Now, the home of the Panthers, it was once the site of Good Samaritan Hospital, the first privately funded, independent hospital in North Carolina built exclusively for the treatment of Blacks. (Randomly, also the birthplace of my Mom).

From there we whizzed down Tryon Street, a little more challenging to navigate through people walking, kids skating and traffic, making stops at Civil War sites, celebrity condo locations and the Square, before heading down toward Discovery Place and through Fourth Ward.

Bauguass was excited to show us one of the most underrated views of the city in Fourth Ward while cruising to and through Settler’s Cemetery.

The tour's last stop was EpiCentre, where its only relevant historical nugget was its recent foreclosure.

What was nice was how everybody had something to contribute to the experience. Whether it was a story about a restaurant or landmark we passed or someone on the street curious as to why a Segway gang was roaming the streets, it was a fascinating time.

For natives, it’s an awesome experience to see places you probably haven’t stopped to admire to since you were a kid, while also getting some historical background on newer things you see every day, For transplants, it’s an invaluable crash course in Charlotte history and fun time to playing with $5,000 toys you’d never buy yourself.

Tours start at 401 E. Martin Luther King Blvd. (across from the NASCAR Hall of Fame) and include walking, Segway, van, bike, historical, African-American and beginning this Friday, ghost tours.

For more information visit www.charlottenctours.com or call 704-962-4548.

— Mike McCray

(Oh and here's writer Mike McCray's Segway crash:)

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