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Monster Ford SUV doomed

The Ford Excursion, one of the behemoths of the SUV group that is some 19 feet long, will go the way of the Edsel in about nine months, Ford says.

Replacing it will be an extended version of its Expedition SUV, sources say.

The reason for eliminating the Excursion, first launched in 1999, is simple _ it wasn't selling. Sales were down by about 25 percent this year.

Gas prices could have something to do with that. When a vehicle gets only about 14 miles per gallon on the highway and 10 around town, and is supposed to be a family car, buyers will take a second look, even if they prefer its size and bulk.

Another bulky victim of the knife will be the Lincoln Aviator, which hasn't been around that long _ only since 2001. Once again, market pressures prevailed. Aviator sales dropped 20 percent this year.

Segway instead of a car?

Perhaps you, like me, have seen pictures of the Segway Human Transporter, that two-wheeled gizmo on which the driver stands and zips around.

What's it like driving one? America on the Road radio show co-host Mike Anson recently took a spin on a Segway and was thrilled with the thing.

Anson says the hardest thing for him to learn was to simply relax and let the machine do its thing. Its thing is balancing you and sensing your intentions. Balance is achieved by five separate gyros that measure your position, attitude, etc., about 100 times a second.

Therefore, if you get on a Segway and try to balance yourself, as you might a bicycle, you will only make life more difficult for the sensors.

Climb on and relax, Anson advises. Once he did that, driving the Segway was a breeze. He leaned forward to put the machine in motion, and the farther he leaned, the faster it went, up to 12 miles per hour.

Braking is sort of like riding a horse, only you don't pull back on the reins _ just lean backward.

There's a small handlebar for controlling turns, and in fact the machine is so navigable that it might be appropriate for indoor use. To that end, it has special tires that will not leave skid marks on your floor.

The Segway is powered by two, 2-horsepower battery-driven electric motors, one at each wheel. Interested? There are several models. The top-of-the-line job costs $4,500.

Segways have surprisingly broad distribution. Go to www.segway.com for a dealer near you. In a limited number of states you can purchase or rent them.

Some doubters have lodged safety concerns, so every Segway promotional video features people strapping on helmets, but this is the equivalent of insisting that joggers wear helmets. American safety overkill. It would be great fun to zip around on one of these with the wind in your hair. The greatest danger is probably that they could become so ubiquitous that no one would walk anymore!

Quiz

Be the first to answer the following question and win a small prize.

QUESTION: What is the meaning behind the three-pointed Mercedes-Benz star?

Answer to last week's quiz:

QUESTION: Who offered the first adjustable steering column, and when?

ANSWER: In 1911, Rambler offered an adjustable steering pillar.

Send questions, suggestions or quiz answers to infoamericaontheroad.com, and we will do our best to respond, either in a subsequent column or via e-mail. Happy motoring!

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