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Wheels are turning on battlefield tours
Segway tours of Spotsylvania battlefield now available

 Frank O'Reilly of the National Park Service leads a tour by segway of the Spotsylvania Courthouse Battlefield. Segway tours will be offered every Saturday morning through October. (suzanne carr rossi) -- -- -- 5 cols color
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Date published: 6/23/2010

BY BILL FREEHLING

The soldiers who encountered the land now known as the Spotsylvania Court House battlefield in May 1864, having marched for miles to get there, were about to encounter some of the most brutal fighting of the American Civil War.

The nine people who took part in the first public Segway tour of the hallowed ground Saturday had it quite a bit easier.

National Park Service historian Frank O'Reilly led the group by Segway on a two-hour tour of the battlefield off Brock Road. Additional Segway tours are planned at the park every Saturday for several months.

A Segway is a two-wheeled, battery-powered device. People stand upright on the machines, which move in response to the rider's body. Lean forward and it goes that way. Lean back and it brakes. Steering works about the same way. Experts compare it to skiing's biomechanics.

Segway of Richmond a couple of years ago started offering Segway tours of the Petersburg battlefield. O'Reilly's colleagues filled him in on it, and the historian thought the tours would work well in Spotsylvania.

"It gets people who are interested in Segways interested in history, and people who are interested in history interested in Segways," O'Reilly said.

He added: "It gives us a chance to cover a lot of ground in a limited amount of time."

O'Reilly decided on the Spotsylvania battlefield as a testing ground for the Segway tours because it's a self-contained park with limited automobile traffic. For now the Segway tours will be offered there once a week--Saturdays at 11:30 a.m., meeting at the end of Anderson Drive--but additional dates may be added as demand dictates. The National Park Service might eventually add Segway tours of other area Civil War battle sites.

The National Park Service is partnering with Segway of Richmond on the tours. Company owner Buck Ward and local Segway enthusiast John Moulton provided the machines for the participants and led them through a brief orientation before the tour started. They say just about anyone can ride one.

Segway of Richmond handles the bookings and charges $55 per person for the tour. None of the money goes to the National Park Service.

O'Reilly's tour Saturday included Segway rides to and from the key sites on the battlefield. At each stop he told the history of the battle, culminating in a trip to the infamous Bloody Angle.

O'Reilly, himself a Segway enthusiast, is optimistic that the tour will catch on. The Segways don't go any faster than about 12 mph, giving people a more up-close-and-personal journey than that afforded by a car while requiring less effort than walking.

"We're pretty excited," O'Reilly said.

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405
Email: bfreehling@freelancestar.com


People interested in going on a Segway tour of the Spotsylvania battlefield can call Segway of Richmond at 804/343-1850. The cost is $55 per person.