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Better still, Segway riding is easy. And enjoyable. It’s not quite a “telepathic” experience — another early claim — but after a few minutes of practice, the device’s shift-your-weight steering becomes second nature.

Moreover, zipping along produces a refreshing perma-breeze, not to mention a slight sense of schadenfreude while gliding past sweating, sun-tired groups of pedestrians — a feeling akin to sitting in first class and sipping a cocktail while other passengers lumber onto the airplane, desperately scanning for remaining overhead bin space.

On the other hand, steering clear of tanned, shirtless and buff joggers produces the opposite feeling, one that echoes an early criticism of Segway: America is already fat and inactive enough. Now we need scooters to walk? But never mind that.

On a recent morning, Mr. Tyson stopped his machine in front of the Capitol, then used its zero-degree turn radius to take in the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress.

A 33-year-old Air Force veteran, he studied history at the University of New Hampshire and was one of the Segway corporation’s first tour guides.

“I love this,” he said with a grin. “There’s nothing like having a job where you ride a Segway all day. And what better job for a history major?”

The Segway may not have changed history, but it’s a worthy way to experience Washington’s monuments and memorials to the people and events who have.

WHAT:Smithsonian Tours by Segway (tours available in English, Dutch, French, Italian and Spanish)

WHERE:The Mall entrance of the National Museum of American History, Madison Drive between 12th and 14th Streets, NW

WHEN:Daily tours at 9 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. (Tours last roughly three hours.)

TICKETS:$79 per person (Riders must be 16 years of age or older and weigh between 100 and 260 pounds.)

PHONE:202/384-8516

WEB: www.Segway.com/SmithsonianTours