You Do What?

By Forest Balderson Photography by Fred Burgin June 1, 2011

On Tour

Fred Burgin, 67, bought a Segway tour for himself and a family member as a Christmas gift in 2006 and ended up launching Manatee Segway Tours. “When I got off the Segway,” says Burgin, “I said, ‘This is what I want to do when I grow up.’” So Burgin retired from a 20-year career with G.E. in Manatee County, snapped up his first six Segways (he now has eight) for $5,500 each, and popped on his helmet.

He’s led thousands of people on tours around downtown Bradenton, showing off the landmarks and promoting “the friendly city” and its businesses. He doesn’t mind the jabs from athletic joggers and cyclists as they pass riders gliding in single file on their two-wheeled personal transporters. “I didn’t get this belly from jogging,” he jokes. “I just run them over.”

The Segway travels at speeds of up to 12.5 mph, though most of Burgin’s tours run about 6.5 mph. Tours range between $35 and $65 per person, depending on how far riders want to go. And even though Segways are far from an extreme sport, mastering the machine takes balance and training—and Burgin carries $2 million in liability insurance.

“One time, I had a guy who didn’t tell me he had diabetic neuropathy. After half an hour of riding, his feet went numb, and he couldn’t control the Segway,” Burgin says. “I had to go after him and catch him before he went into the river.”

The best moments on the job are guiding three generations at once—a child, parent and grandparent. “I like seeing the thrill on their faces as they all share the same experience at once,” says Burgin. “I worked for G.E. as a trainer for customer service. This is still a teaching job. I’m teaching people to ride the Segway.”

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