Life was good for Jimi Heselden. He came from humble origins and built a name for himself when he invented a collapsible wire mesh fabric container called Hesco bastion that was widely used in war zones to quickly and effectively erect blast walls and fortifications (thanks Wikipedia!).
In 2010 he bought Segway Inc. at which time his estimated worth was somewhere in the region of R1 947 831 890, a figure which I have painstakingly converted because I can’t find the pound button on my keyboard.
Then one day Jimi went for a lazy afternoon ride on his Segway (fitted with special off-road tyres), drove off the edge of a 24 meter cliff and died.
When I heard this, my entire conception of these quaint little machines that look like something out of The Jetsons changed immediately.
“Killing Machine” is a strong term but right now, two whiskies in, I can’t really think of a better one.
On Sunday, J-Rab gave me strict instructions not to get too hammered at the family lunch because she had a surprise for me later that afternoon and boy was I glad I listened to her (for once).
We took a drive through to Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch where she used to work where she let the cat out the bag that we were going on a sunset Segway tour around Spier! With special Segways fitted with off-road tyres!
Did visions of my mangled body lying at the bottom of a 24 meter cliff start flashing through my mind? No. For one, there are no 24 meter cliffs on Spier and for two I’d seen six year old kids on those things, how hard could it be?
And that’s just the thing, it wasn’t hard at all. All you have to do is hold onto the handlebars and lean, you’ve got to be a special kind of retarded to get that wrong.
Our tour guides Saul and Dan took us through the basics of driving the Segways and after about 20 minutes of riding around on an old tennis court we all had the hang of it and were ready to take the Segs off the ‘turtle’ setting and tear up the dirt roads of Spier.
To put it simply, if you ever get a chance to visit Spier and you don’t jump on the Segs to take a tour of the vineyards, you’re missing out in a huge way.
The machines are seriously fucking cool – you hardly have to move a muscle to get them up to top speed and they’re so responsive you can whip out a 360 degree turn in a circle as tight as the wheelbase is wide.
Dan and Saul are definitely onto something. With the off-road tyres fitted the Segs can handle some pretty rugged terrain and it beats the hell out of actually walking, think of all the unnecessary wear and tear you’ll be saving on your legs!
We found the perfect spot on the edge of the vineyard and got off the Segways to watch the sun set. All around us there was just acre upon acre of rolling green land framed on all sides by the mountains rising like stone giants as the shadows they cast lengthened in the fading light.
I don’t know when we’ll go back to Stellenbosch again. We don’t live there anymore so probably not for a long, long time, but as far as last memories go that afternoon riding around the vineyards is possibly the best we could have left with.