VANCOUVER, Wash. - There's a new start-up in town - one that'll let you hop on board a Segway and take in some of the sights in and around downtown Vancouver.
Vancouver Segway Tours, a husband and wife operation, opened up shop in May.
"A couple of years ago we were on vacation on the East Coast and we did a Segway tour of the battlefields of Virginia," said Ray Bouvier. "We had so much fun that she (my wife) has been thinking about how to get this going here."
The two decided to give it a whirl.
So, why Vancouver?
Well for one, it's the town that Bouvier and his wife call home. And they weren't all that interested in opening up shop in Portland for two reasons - they felt the streets in downtown were a little too crowded for Segways and the city already has a Portland by Segway tour anyway. So Vancouver it was.
"This is actually a great location for this because of the sights we have," said Bouvier. "We have Fort Vancouver, we can go along the Columbia River and there are parks in the area. We designed it to be a nice balance between history and actually getting to ride the Segways and have some fun."
Bouvier said the business got off to a slow start but has picked up quite a bit since they offered specials on some deal sites. Can that momentum be maintained? Bouvier and his wife are, of course, hoping for the best but are ready for the risk they are taking.
"We don't know if we have enough business here," he said. "This first year is kind of an experiment to see how it works."
"My dream would be that in five years we've grown, people have heard of us and instead of having to reach out, the word of mouth will spread that we're here," he added.
For Bouvier, the job is a huge lifestyle change - he used to be a pension actuary.
"Most people don't know what that is," he said. "It's statistics and number crunching. I was the one who figured out how much money to put in the pension plan every year to be able to pay the pensions. As you might imagine, this job is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of sitting at a computer in a back room crunching numbers, now I'm out meeting people and having a lot of fun."
"This really beats sitting at a desk eight to 10 hours a day running statistics," he added. "Not that it wasn't a great job, and there were good things about it, but I like people. When people come out and have had a good time, that's my reward."
Design image courtesy of Vancouver Segway Tours.
Bouvier's wife is a full-time surgery nurse who spends what free time she has working on the business venture behind the scenes. For example, she's the one who came up with the design for the logo - a superhero-looking figure riding a Segway.
"She's the brains and the beauty of our operation," Bouvier said. "I consider myself the mouth - I do the tours."
Is Riding a Segway Difficult?
This reporter gave it a shot and was spinning around a courtyard outside the tour office after just a few minutes of instruction. It's not that hard at all - the Segway moves in the direction you lean and to stop you just bend your knees and lower your hips.
"I think what might surprise people the most is how easy it is," said Bouvier. "There are actually gyroscopes in the Segway and two computers - I think one is just a backup in case the first one goes out. But the idea is that it's actually adjusting the gyroscopes to how you are leaning."
Is it possible to fall off a Segway? Of course it is, but Bouvier said that rarely happens. He said he has had a few people fall, but it's usually because they're getting a little too aggressive with the machine. Take it easy and go with the flow and you'll be just fine.
If You Go
- Tours run daily at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. or by appointment.
- The regular prices are $75 per person for a 1.5-hour tour or $85 per person for a two-hour tour but you can get a 1/2 off deal on Groupon. Bouvier said he's also offering 2 for 1 deals at the ticket window.
- Vancouver Segway tours is located in downtown Vancouver at 108 E. 7th Street. You'll want to call to ask about tours or to make a reservation because Bouvier is in and out throughout the day. The number is (360) 693-2939. You can also find them on Facebook.