Karl Johnson wasn’t much of a history buff until he started cruising through the rich stories of Cleveland’s past. In 1998, he turned his fascination into narrated walking tours of the city. But the excursions really took off when the 84-year-old first boarded a Segway in 2007. “It is much faster than walking, more comfortable and more fun,” says Johnson, who is now the owner and tour guide behind Segway Tours of Cleveland. “Over and over again residents of Cleveland say I lived here all my life and I didn’t know what you just told me.” The two-wheeled historian shares his three favorite spots in Cleveland. 216-394-0095Public Square
The site of the first set of public electric streetlights in the United States, unveiled in 1879, is also a personal landmark in Johnson’s family history. “My mother’s brothers had jobs in University Circle lighting the gas lamps at night and then would go back in the morning, climb up and extinguish [them],” he says.
Outside the Frank Lausche State Office building, Segway-riders zoom under the bright orange, seven-sided beam built by artist Tony Smith in 1979. One of many art installations on the tour, this one serves as a reminder that even the 84-year-old tour guide still has a thing or two to learn. “A second grader taught me that that’s the last sculpture that Tony Smith did,” he says.
The Steamship William G. Mather Maritime Museum
This retired steamship that doubles as a museum is the perfect pit stop for Segway-bound tourists to take in the beauty of the lake and learn about the city’s industrial past. “The 618-foot longboat made those tortuous curves and turns on the Cuyahoga River to deliver steel to the mill,” he says. “That’s fascinating.”