On Chari’s Top 5 list for 2013 was to ride a Segway. Ok, check that one off the list. Well, not really off the list. As with so many of our fun things, once we’ve tried them we can’t wait to do them again. The Segway falls into this category. Looks like our Bucket List is more like a loop than a list. Too bad these fun machines are over $6,000 or we’d be out looking for them. But then we already have lots of toys strapped to our RV (which I’ve named Dream Chaser) so a ride now and then will have to do.
We scheduled our tour with Segway of Savannah http://www.segwayofsavannah.com after picking up a flyer at the Savannah Visitors Center. Their new location is just across MLK Blvd. in the Old South Trolley Tour parking lot. They offer tours of the historic district (60 minutes for $65) and Bonaventure Cemetery (90 minutes for $75). Reservations do need to be made a day ahead and there are age and weight restrictions (see website or brochure). This would be our splurge for this stop. Hey, you can’t take it with you even though a lot of people try! I’d rather collect memories than something I have to dust.
There were four of us taking the tour today. The other couple was from Detroit and about our age. We met our tour guide, Tess, at the cemetery parking lot after watching a safety video and signing waivers. After watching the video my palms were a bit moist and my adrenaline surging from a combination of excitement mixed with a dose of fear. Part of me felt like the Little Engine That Could as I said “You can do this, I know you can”. The moment had arrived. Tess held the handle bars as I stepped up and felt the machine purr. Slowly, ever so slowly , I leaned forward so the weight transferred to my toes and off I went at a snail’s pace with Tess walking along side. Then she said “OK, now turn”. The Segway turns in a very tight radius by touching the handle right or left. We were instructed to NEVER lean on the handle. Around to the left. Now back to the right. This wasn’t going to be that hard. Actually the hardest part isn’t the going but learning to control the stopping and standing still. When moving along with weight forward you gently shift your weight back onto your heels to slow down or stop. When standing still you need to keep still. even the smallest movement causes the machine to “rock” a bit. If by any chance you shift your weight too far to the rear the Segway will start backwards. More about that later… After about ten minutes of practice we were off to see one of the most beautiful Victorian era cemeteries in the country.
Bonaventure Cemetery leapt onto the literary stage in the best selling novel Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil. However, the story starts long before that. For safety reasons no photographs are allowed while riding the Segway so we only have a few photos to share. We refer you to the Bonaventure Historical Society website http://www.bonaventurehistorical.org for additional details and a virtual tour. There was a wooden plantation home called Bonaventure (French for good luck) built on the site in 1771. A family burial plot was located here and was the beginning of the cemetery. The two original owners were loyal to England during the Revolutionary War and their property was seized and sold. After the war the Tatanall family returned and repurchased the property. It remained in the family until 1846. The next owner developed part of the property for use as a cemetery called Evergreen Cemetery of Bonaventure. It was a public cemetery and became “the place” to be buried during the Victorian era when burial rituals became formalized and memorials not only spoke of the deceased’s deeds but of social status and wealth. Tess was a most informative and humorous guide. We’d pause at various places and she would tell us stories or explain the significance of various statues. Prior to the Victorian era for instance coffins were reused. Once enough time had passed the bones were removed and left at the gravesite and the coffin recycled. Then embalming began to be used and graves became personalized. To be interred at Bonaventure was so desirable that many wealthy families moved loved ones from downtown Savannah cemeteries to Bonaventure. During the Civil War when money was scarce very simple markers were used. As wealth returned, elaborate sculptures became common. Many of the sculptures were done by John Waltz. His sense of detail and of humanity make these works of art meaningful today. One of the most popular is of a young girl named Gracie. Her parents had a photograph taken of her just days before she died from pneumonia. Her grieving father took the photo to John Waltz and the memorial captures a child-like innocence and beauty. The tree stump symbolizes a life cut short, the bud a life just begun and the palm branch peace. Oddly enough his own grave has no sculpture to mark it. Many notables are buried here including songwriter Johnny Mercer and poet Conrad Aiken. It was Aiken who brought Emily Dickenson’s poetry to light and she is now much more well known than he. The city of Savannah bought the cemetery in 1907 and it is still an active cemetery today.
One of the things that surprised us was how much you use the smaller muscles of your feet and legs on the Segway. It’s not uncommon for the constant use to cause decreased blood flow to the feet. So we took a few breaks off of the Segways to walk around. After one of the breaks I climbed back on the Segway but must not have gotten my feet quite far enough forward. Instead of rolling forward, I began going backward. Fortunately the man behind me put out his hand to stop me. A slight shift forward and I was balanced and headed in the right direction. From there on I made sure to step well forward when getting on and had no further problems. Our units were supplied with all terrain tires which we needed for the dirt roads and tree roots. As we moved along our confidence increased and we kept a reasonable pace. At the end Tess took us about 3/4 of a mile down a side road where we could “open them up”. She asked if we felt like we were twelve years old. I replied, “mentally at least”. The road led to another cemetery where the grave of Danny, the murdered assistant, from Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil is located. Tess said the book is 90% true and 10% fiction. She said the fun is to find the 10%. For example in the end both Danny and Williams are buried at Bonaventure. In fact neither one of them is there. It’s been a long time since I saw the movie and Steve never has so we’ve put it on our Netflix list.
Our hour and a half tour went by so fast. We’d love to come back and do a walking tour or just take photos. If you’ve ever wanted to try a Segway, we highly recommend this tour. Our second childhood is great especially on days like this one.