Hitting the highway for Road Trip 2006

Hop in the station wagon as CNET News.com reporter Daniel Terdiman negotiates the Pacific Northwest with a car full of gadgets. Photos: Road Trip 2006 gadgets

SAN FRANCISCO--If there's one thing I've learned over the last couple of days, it's that satellite phones were not meant to be used in the concrete canyons of a major downtown area.

I know this because I have two of the take-and-use-anywhere phones for the road trip I'm embarking on Thursday, and I've found that the devices have a very hard time maintaining a signal without a clear view of a whole lot of sky.

I'm hoping my luck will change as I begin my two-week trek through the American Pacific Northwest. During my journey, which we're calling "Road Trip 2006," I'll be searching for, reporting and writing stories related to technology and science--or at the very least, pieces likely to appeal to CNET News.com readers.

You'll be able to follow my progress the whole way as I file a full story and photos--or at least a blog entry or two--nearly every day. You can even track my steps using an interactive map.

The plan is to drive north from San Francisco in my 2001 Subaru Outback station wagon, heading into the woods and away from the city.

In addition to the tent, cooler, air mattress and camping stove I'm toting to keep this trip affordable (no five-star hotels for me, and only a few motels), I'll be carting along what seems like a Radio Shack's worth of gadgets, many of which are review units I'll test along the way.

The collection? The aforementioned pair of satellite phones (an Iridium 9505A and a Globalstar GSP-1600); a 15-inch Apple Computer MacBook Pro; three GPS units (a Garmin Nuvi 350, a Garmin GPSMAP 76CX and a Magellan Roadmate 3000T) with two separate car navigation systems--we'll see which one gives me better advice; a new video iPod with portable Altec Lansing iPod speakers; a Sony PlayStation Portable; and a Canon PowerShot G2 digital camera to document the whole thing.

If my car gets broken into, I'm in big trouble.

Road Trip 2006 gadgets

I've designed an ambitious and diverse itinerary that will take me through five states (California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Nevada) and into Canada's British Columbia. I plan to move every day and cover long distances, so it's a good thing I've got 8,000 songs on my iPod.

The first stop will be Arcata, Calif., a small college town on the Pacific coast about 100 miles south of the Oregon border. There, I plan to visit the Arcata Kinetic Lab, where evil-genius scientists slave away all year long to craft vehicles the likes of which most people have never seen. They're basically giant sculptures that happen to be engineered to ford rivers. Go figure.

From there, I head north into Oregon. Ideally, I'll visit Crater Lake National Park, but that may be pushing it, as I need to make good time heading toward Washington state.

I'll swing through Portland, a town with a blossoming technology community, and I'll likely find something to write about there. What, I'm not sure. I'm leaving Portland as a wild-card.

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