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But the machine remains overshadowed by the early hype and its price, says Steve Kemper, author of a book on the invention of the Segway. The Segway is a blast to ride, says Mr. Kemper, who nevertheless adds he isn't ready to pay the $4,000 to $6,000 sticker price.

Mr. Hopper, who missed being first to own a Segway in the Washington area by 20 minutes, shrugs off the price concern saying that for many, the Segway is a valuable investment. "I got it for fun," he admits, "but now use it instead of jumping in the car for little trips." The trips are usually for his jobs in downtown Washington, installing art and furniture.

Washington, with an estimated 300 to 500 "gliders," is one of the busiest clusters of users. It's not unusual to see half a dozen Segways snaking lazily around downtown on organized tours.

It could be argued that such low numbers do not a culture make - but, say Seg users, that would be wrong.

Ryan Colbert, for example, averages 250 miles a month on his Seg, which he says has evolved into a "one man stand against foreign oil, high gas prices, and our lack of interpersonal communication."

Most mornings, Mr. Colbert, who lives in Orlando, Fla., attaches a bicycle cart to his Segway and glides his 5-year-old son to school.

"It is the most popular way to arrive at his K-12 school," Colbert says in an e-mail interview. "The person directing traffic wishes us a good morning and helps us cross the busy entrance. It is really a nice time we enjoy together that will hopefully be a fond memory he looks back on when he's older."

Colbert is one of many gliders nationwide who converge in online discussion groups to swap stories, plan events or share names of their Segs (Seahorse, The Equalizer, Sammy Segway). They have a sport (Segway polo), they accessorize their Segs, and they have built a Seg-vocabulary. Gliding is the preferred action verb, closer to the segsperience than cruising or riding. Users are seggers or gliders. Seen a Seg somewhere? That's a Seg in the wild. A pack of Segs are a glide. And then there's the "Segway smile," the surprise reaction of a seg-skeptic once he climbs aboard.

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