Like any cautious driver, Alli Hill looked both ways at the busy Crossroads intersection.
Seeing an opening in traffic, she reached above her head and rang an authentic golden San Francisco cable car bell. Its high-pitched message: Pedal.
Ten St. Louis women groaned and screamed in drunken unison as they pumped their legs, powering the European-imported mobile bar.
They were in town for a bachelorette getaway and decided to explore the city via Pedal Hopper, a bicycle-powered bar that specializes in two-hour group beer tours. And I tagged along.
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I’m an intern here at The Star, new to town, so my editor thought I’d be the perfect candidate to test out some unusual ways to explore Kansas City. My whirlwind weekend of tours included jumping on a Segway with an Iowa family, getting to know a fellow intern on a phone-based scavenger hunt and singing Bruno Mars with a bunch of strangers aboard the Pedal Hopper.
This franchise has offered tours around Waldo and Brookside for a couple of years and expanded this spring into the Crossroads. The party bike/bar crawl usually hits three bars as riders mix a day or evening of exercise and drinking on perhaps the strangest vehicle on the road.
The moving bar looks like the perfect time to test your drinking and pedaling abilities, but local laws don’t allow that (in other cities, drinking is allowed on bikes). KC tour participants must drink their fill at the bars along the route.
“They get a little better at pedaling the drunker they get,” said Hill, who started driving the bike in early May. “They forget it hurts.”
The vehicle, which can host 16, has a small motor that helps get up hills and hurry through busy intersections, but riders definitely have to pedal to get it to going.
Katie Fietsam (soon to be Katie Lenz) and nine members of her “I Do Crew” (as proclaimed by their matching black T-shirts) had never visited Kansas City and wanted a taste of the local bar scene.
To begin the tour, Hill asked about the bride’s drinking preferences and chose Crossroads bars accordingly: the Up-Down, the Belfry and Lifted Spirits.
“I wanted to get out of St. Louis and explore somewhere new,” Fietsam said. “This is so much better than just bar hopping.”
Segway Bike & Stroll
A poorly animated stick figure riding a Segway hits a curb and falls to the pavement. It leans too far forward and face-plants into the concrete. It tries to maneuver a steep hill and just sort of tips over.
After signing a waiver and watching this short but subtly violent Segway safety video, I started to get nervous.
I looked at the Hanson family, four Iowans in town for a wedding, to see if they shared the same fear, but they all looked ready to explore. Michael Foster, the day’s tour guide, held a Segway as each of us climbed aboard for our individual training.
The Segway reacts to your body’s movement: If you want to go forward, lean toward the handle bars. If you want to go backward, you shift your weight to the back of your heels. To turn you simply pull the handlebars left and right.
The Segway is sensitive — it’s like driving a car on the highway — and it takes only a slight movement to shift lanes. After a jerky 10 minutes, I was completely comfortable.
“I was a little nervous at first, but after a while it was like riding a bike,” Deb Hanson said. “It became second nature.”
The 1 1/2 hour Art & Glide tour explores the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Kansas City Art Institute and Mill Creek Park. A two-hour tour adds stops in Westport and the Country Club Plaza.
Much of the tour is spent riding in single file. Talking over the whir of the engine to the person in front or behind you is sometimes a difficult task. But the main attraction is riding a Segway, and the art/history lessons take a backseat.
Big City Hunt
Cellphones can often act as barriers between people sitting in the same space. Big City Hunt’s scavenger hunts and tours turn your cellphone into a device that brings people together.
These two-hour guided tours, accessed online via your phone, send you on sightseeing walking adventures. They’re available for cities all over the country. You get points for answering trivia questions about your surroundings and for getting to each stop in a timely manner. (A similar tour, Operation City Quest, uses a phone app.)
The route started at the Downtown Marriott and traced its way through Power & Light, sending us as far south as the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and as far east as the Sprint Center.
Some of the questions were difficult for a KC transplant — what NBA team was once based in Kansas City? — and a few of the items were hard to find — a religious statue eluded us for 20 minutes. But ultimately the tour’s value rested in the conversations it sparked.
I went on the tour with a fellow intern, and every stop on the digital map gave us a chance to get to know each other better.
The Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral led to conversations about religion and my Catholic upbringing; the Kauffman Center sparked a talk about her involvement in her high school thespian society; the Sprint Center launched us into a conversation about sports and music.
But really, the tour and others like it are perfect for a business looking for a fun team-building activity while visiting a city for a convention.
Jacob Gedetsis: 816-234-4416, @jacobgedetsis
▪ Pedal Hopper: $320 per group (up to 16 people) Sunday-Thursday, $360 Friday and Saturday. Visit pedalhopper.com or call 785-760-1984.
▪ Segway Bike & Stroll: $60 for 1 1/2 hour tour; $70 for 2 hours. Visit kansascitysegwaytours.com.
▪ Big City Hunt: Cost per person varies by number of participants. Two cost $22; six cost $55. Visit bigcityhunt.com.