- Associated Press - Saturday, June 14, 2014

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Trina Jeannet has lived in Fairbanks for more than three decades, but she’s managed to carve out a new identity in the community in the past few years.

When Jeannet, 54, runs errands around town, she’s now often recognized as “the Segway lady” - the person who leads downtown Fairbanks tours each summer on the two-wheeled electric vehicles.

Although she was once someone who mocked the geek factor of a Segway ride, Jeannet has grown to enjoy her new moniker.

“It’s funny,” she said. “I like it - it’s kind of sweet.”

Jeannet started EcoSeg Alaska four years ago, offering visitors a chance to see Fairbanks while riding the quirky self-propelled devices.

Pioneer Park manager Jason Avery said Jeannet has become a perpetually upbeat presence in the park each summer while leading her Segway tours. After watching her groups pass by enough times, Avery even decided he needed to take one of the tours himself.

“She’s always super friendly, has a smile on her face,” he said. “She’s a great tour guide and representative of Fairbanks.”

Becoming a local tour guide has been an unexpected chapter for Jeannet, who moved to Fairbanks from Oregon with her husband Charlie in 1980.

She spent the next 30 years homeschooling their four children through high school. But as they began leaving home, Jeannet said she started to wonder what she’d find to do next.

The answer came unexpectedly from her son, Sayre. He and his future wife, Leslie, would often spend dates riding Segways together, leading to plenty of mockery from back home.

Then they convinced Trina to ride along on an excursion. And like that, the the spark for her future career was born.

“We loved it,” she said. “I thought, ‘My gosh, we’re all nerds.’”

Wearing an EcoSeg T-shirt - it shows a salmon, bear and moose riding Segways - the energetic, petite Jeannet led a pair of novice riders through an obstacle course on Wednesday. Her enthusiasm for the job was evident as she patiently explained the various techniques for riding the self-balancing gyroscopic vehicles.

Passengers propel the Segway by leaning forward or backward, with a steering handlebar that is pushed to the right or left. It can spin in 360 degrees with no turning radius.

The Segway company states that after 15 minutes, every rider feels like an expert. Jeannet said it’s not far from the truth, which makes some novice riders feel like they’re better than they really are.

“I have a saying, ‘After 15 minutes, I have to start watching,’” she said with a laugh. “They say, ‘This is so fun,’ and start doing less-than-smart things.”

Segway tours don’t always go perfectly - Jeannet said there’s the occasional wipeout or speed-obsessed 14-year-old boy to contend with - but she’s thrilled with her career choice. It’s led to a love of Fairbanks history, as she devours books and lectures about the community to include on her tour.

“Now I’m a little bit of a junkie that way,” she said. “You’re always listening and keeping your ears to the tracks.”

She’s also made a new set friends through her tours, with clients stretching from Fairbanks’ Aurora neighborhood to Australia. The seasonal job has become everything she’d hoped - a way to enjoy an Interior summer while meeting people from all over the world.

“This is not a direction I would have thought,” she said with a small shrug. “You make your plans, and life happens.”

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com

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