On May 8th 2010, we (Nick, Kate, Calvin & I) went on the Wilderness Back Trail Adventure (see allearsnet for the basic rundown) – and was it ever fun! So much so that Nick & I are ready and willing to do it again!
We met our guides (Ron & Sean) at the bike barn inside Fort Wilderness along with the other 4 tourists that joined us.
Note: it takes some planning to get to the bike barn in a timely fashion if you don’t have a car, if you aren’t familiar with Fort Wilderness, or if you’re just a “slow person.” We arrived well in advance (what would you expect with four highly organized Disney World veterans) while the other four had more difficulty making it there on time.
Like all of the Segway tours (I assume), it started with signing release forms, a short video, an introduction to how the Segway works, getting our helmets, and making sure that our receivers worked (the guides use transmitters & tourists wear earpieces and receivers).
Next up, actually getting on the Segways and learning how to ride. The most difficult thing is “turning your brain off!” (as Sean told us repeatedly) We all went behind the bike barn to a “training area” where we had to deal with maneuvering around cones, going up and down an incline, stopping and starting, and most important — not running over other guests. This last one took more concentration than the tour we did a short while ago – the Disney World Triathlon was getting set up and there were a lot of runners & bicyclists around.
After a short training period we were off. Sean mainly ran interference and traffic control for the entire group. Ron had a very nice running commentary about Fort Wilderness, botanical facts, WDW trivia, and some “punny” jokes. Nick was the last tourist in the group and I was right in front of him, Sean usually brought up the rear and as the tour went on – he and Nick had a lot of discussion about tons of things – especially the Nature Inspired Design Tour at Epcot.
It was fairly obvious that Sean and Ron had been working together as a team for quite a while – their delivery and their attitude was much more comfortable and non-script-y than the NIDT guides were at Epcot last week.
The tour takes about 2 hours and you ride the Segways for approximately 4.5 miles around Fort Wilderness, in some “backstage” areas, over to Wilderness Lodge, and back.
Nick and I are very familiar with Fort Wilderness – you may remember that we walk over there at least once a week when we’re in Lake Buena Vista – it came in handy because we really knew where the sidewalks went up or down and where there were low hanging branches or palm fronds that we’d need to duck under. I think that for the two of us, our familiarity with FW and the fact that we’d just ridden the Segways about 10 days earlier made it much easier for us to relax and really just enjoy the day (plus, as I said the guides were excellent).
A few of the things that we did differently from our usual walks around the camping loops:
- We went down a “nature trail” that ended up near (well, actually on the marsh at) Bay Lake, there was a nice break in the foliage & we could see the Contemporary, Bay Lake Towers, Cinderella Castle, and the top of Spaceship Earth
- Ron regaled us with Disney World Trivia Questions – after answering a few, I tried to keep my mouth shut – we weren’t the only ones there to enjoy the tour!
- Nick was able to find out what the small cottage on the other side of the canal was – it used to be for nature excursions for the kiddies
- We saw some campers fishing & one kid had caught a “decent kid sized” fish
- Then we were off again, we reentered the main Fort Wilderness Settlement area beside the General Store & made our way over to the horse stables (dodging a lot of bikes & walkers!)
- Did you know that the Spanish Moss on trees was originally called Spanish Beard because the Native Americans thought it looked the beards that the early Spaniards wore after being on ships for so long crossing the Atlantic Ocean? And Spanish Moss isn’t really a moss, it’s an angiosperm in the bromeliad family – doesn’t hurt the trees, just uses them for support while it gets its nutrients from the air and from the rain
- Ron also pointed out the Resurrection fern in the crooks of the trees – it looks like dead, dried up nothing – until it rains, within a few hours, it turns bright green & “returns to life”
- We visited the horses at the stables, saw a display of memorabilia related to the Disney World horses & Walt’s love of horses
- The guides did more trivia complete with Sean doing a skit (I won’t say more because I’m hoping some of readers get to experience this for themselves!)
- Next we took the path over to Wilderness Lodge
- Nick & I are really familiar with this path, we have a friend (Martha’s Vineyard) who insists that this is the Bataan Death March
- Again, lots of bikes and runners
- There was a good opportunity for getting off the paved path with our Segways – Nick passed because of a contact allergy to pines
- We stopped right before we got to Wilderness Lodge, but within sight
- More trivia – some of which we knew, some was new (hah! a pun! maybe I should think about a job as a Segway Tour Guide )
- Went through a very limited area of Wilderness Lodge & then we were on the beach path
- Nick & I had walked part of the beach path the weekend before, it’s made of crushed seashells and was really pleasant
- Ron talked about the wildlife at Walt Disney World & told an old joke — if you see an alligator, you shouldn’t try to run fast enough to outrun it, you just need to run faster than the other people around you (ha ha ha)
- Honestly, we saw less wildlife on the Segway Tour than we usually do on our walks – I think it was because of all the “traffic” from the triathlon
- There was some true behind the scenes stuff at this point – we got near River Country but didn’t get to go in
All in all (and I’m trying to not reveal everything because I know that L&A are planning to do the tour in November AND we really hope to get Sandy & Harry on it the next time they cross the pond), it was a delightful way to spend a Saturday. Calvin & Kate enjoyed it so much that they’ve booked a Segway Tour on their upcoming cruise holiday!
- there was little opportunity for photos because you’re really on the go quite a bit
- the X2 Segways (same models as the Nature Inspired Design a.k.a. the off-road ones) have a nice “bag” on the front where you can stow your stuff
- the guides gave us cold bottles of water to take on the tour & they were greatly appreciated
- don’t horse around, the guides have an opt-out-option on tourists – if you don’t listen to their instructions, if you’re a danger to yourself or others, etc… they’ll make you stop the tour & maybe they’ll come back and get you the next tour (ha ha ha)