The Long and Winding Road

Segwaying across the United States

Photograph by Hunter Weeks/10mph.com

Eight kilometers northeast of Mountain Home, Idaho, on 24 August 2004, Josh Caldwell was wondering whether the unpaved path would pitch him off his Segway Human Transporter. It was the first extended stretch of dirt road on his 6502-km, 16-km/h, 102-day journey across the United States, which is the subject of an upcoming documentary film. The Segway technology behind the trip performed almost without a hitch. Part of the electrical system got soaked once during a battery change in the rain, but a little time drying out the handlebars on top of a pizza oven in Johnstown, Pa., fixed that problem. The 20th-century technology involved didn't fare as well: a jeep and trailer Caldwell's friends were using to follow him got three flat tires between them.

The Segway, with its five solid-state gyroscopes, is designed for stability rather than speed or distance. Caldwell never covered more than 168 km in one day. The Segway's pair of nickel-metal hydride batteries had to be swapped out a total of 418 times, as they averaged 16 km on a charge. "Technology everywhere is all focused on increasing speed and efficiency," documentary director Hunter Weeks wrote in an e-mail. "We forced it to do the opposite, and it was pretty amazing what we captured."

Blogs of the trip, which ended 18 November, are at http://www.10mph.com.

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