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September 30, 2008

Layover Nation: New Zealand by Segway

Mike Brady
Mike Brady, Segway entrepreneur.

Michael Kinsley is one brave reporter. His goal: Test the six winning entries in our Airport Layover Contest. His itinerary: Seattle-Los Angeles-Auckland-Singapore-Dubai-Zurich-Amsterdam-London-Reykjavik-Copenhagen-Seattle. Let's hope his neck cushion is well inflated.

Where was I before the computer died? Oh yes. This happened to be the night of the first presidential debate, so I splurged and rented a hotel room near LAX for half a day--and I'm glad I did. I was in it for only about four hours--I showered and changed and watched the debate and then headed to the airport just in time. I had checked whether the Air New Zealand business class lounge had showers, and was told they did, "of course," but they weren't all that appealing, and although there were several TVs in the lounge, they all were tuned to sports events. It would have taken more courage than I could muster to try to change the channel over the objections of a room full of Kiwis.

Next stop: Auckland.

Layover Nation

The plane arrived on time at 7:15 a.m.--don't ask me what day. Not only did we cross the international date line, but New Zealand went on daylight savings while we were en route. (In the southern hemisphere, do you fall forward and spring back or what?)

My plan was to go to a charming suburb called Devenport and take a tour by Segway. Segways are those stand-up electric scooters that use gyroscopic principles to make it almost impossible to tip over.

I hopped on an express bus, which leaves every 15 minutes, for the 30-minute journey to the downtown ferry terminal, where a ferry to Devenport leaves every half hour. Easy. If you aren't checking luggage and luck out on the immigration line, you can be on the bus at 7:45, or say 8 a.m., and in Devenport by 9.

Except that there is no Segway tour at that hour. But if there were and if you told Mike Brady, the guy in the picture, that an hour is sufficient, you'd be done by 10, catch the 10:15 ferry and be back at the airport at 11.

Brady, by the way, runs a combined FM radio station (playing mostly old standards)/Segway tour business out of a storefront in the ferry terminal. He started it last year after seeing a Segway tour in Paris. One problem? Devenport isn't Paris. But Mike is a great talker, befitting his other occupation, and his hour tour was enjoyable. Unfortunately, the official tour is two and a half hours. Mike was glad to accommodate me, though, when I said I had a plane to catch.

I'm not sure how often you actually face a layover in New Zealand (except to go somewhere else in New Zealand). It does seem to be sort of the end of the line. (No offense--it's nice at the end of the line.) But let's see.

By the way, if you ARE transferring to an internal New Zealand flight, you don't have to save any time for security. There is none. No metal detector, no x-rays, no show-your-ID, etc. No fooling. You do have to have a boarding pass. But if you do, you just walk onto the plane like in the good old days. A trusting people.

Further reading:
* Layover Nation: LAX on One Deserted Beach
* Layover entries mapped: Australia and New Zealand
* Entries from the Airport Layover Contest
* The winning layover ideas


I like the showers in the Air NZ lounge at LAX. I think they are fairly good, although it can be hard getting one when all the transit passengers are in the lounge.

If you went to Devonport for the morning, what did you get up to in the afternoon? If I recall, your flight to Singapore was the late evening red-eye.

PS. It is spring forward fall back in the Southern Hemisphere too. Clocks in New Zealand went forward 1 hour at 2am last Sunday.

Hi Michael,
Wasn't that segway tour of Auckland itself available- the one where they provide you w/ a picnic? I think that you might have enjoyed the scenery more. oh, well...

After the long flight from LA there's nothing better than going down to the dock and spending a couple of hours on the water. Arriving straight from the Auckland airport, some friends and I walked up to a long yellow sailboat that appeared ready to depart and arranged a two hour tour. Some sun and fresh air courtesy of "Kiwi Sail" were the perfect antidote to jet lag.

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