Nike missiles, Golden Gate Bridge accidents, and Road Trip gadgets

From a beautiful vantage point overlooking the ocean, I am able to see the results of a large accident that has shut down the Golden Gate Bridge, and am able to share the news because of technology I'm bringing on Road Trip 2008.

The Y.M. Wealth, a container ship flagged in Liberia goes under the Golden Gate Bridge on its way from Los Angeles to the Port of Oakland. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News.com

MARIN HEADLANDS, Calif.--This is very surreal.

I'm sitting on a bench on top of a cliff here, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and looking straight at the Golden Gate Bridge.

For the last 15 minutes, there has been a steady stream of sirens from emergency vehicles, and I can see that all traffic on the bridge is completely stopped. I Twittered what I was seeing, and almost immediately, one of my followers replied with details of what seems to be a multiple-vehicle accident blocking most of the lanes on the bridge.

Before this happened, I was planning on starting this blog entry by writing that life is very good because here I am sitting in such a magical place, and I'm getting to do work from here.

But seeing and hearing what I know is some sort of tragedy has dampened my spirits a bit.

Still, it is a truly magnificent place to be, and I'm able to sit here and blog because I'm road testing a bunch of gadgets for my upcoming Road Trip 2008.

That trip, which will begin on June 10 in Orlando, Fla., is this year's version of Road Trip 2007, my journey around the U.S. Southwest. This year's voyage will take me around the American South, visiting a series of destinations and attractions, such as Disney World, the Corvette Factory, Space Camp, the Kennedy Space Center, and more. I'll also be carrying a bunch of gadgets with me.

On Wednesday, I spent most of the afternoon at the only restored Nike missile site in the United States.

A Nike Hercules surface-to-air missile at the only restored Nike missile site in the United States. The site is in the Marin Headlands, near Sausalito, Calif. The missile could carry a nuclear warhead of up to 40 kilotons. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News.com

I will be posting a full story and photo gallery on this, most likely on Friday, so stay tuned for that.

Suffice it to say, it's quite a thing to realize that just a few miles from San Francisco there were several active sites capable of firing nuclear-tipped missiles at incoming bombers or other threats.

As my tour guide mentioned, many people from San Francisco had no idea that the site even existed, and being from the city myself, I can attest to the truth of that statement.

After I finished my tour, I pulled out my gadgets--an Apple iPhone and two EVDO modems, a Verizon USB727, and a Sprint Compass 597. The idea was to test which had the best connectivity out here in the middle of one of the most spectacular pieces of land in the world.

Sprint's Compass 597, an EVDO modem that I will be using on Road Trip 2008 Daniel Terdiman/CNET News.com

At first, just above the Nike site, only the iPhone got any kind of signal. It was spotty, but I was able to load a Web site containing information on Nike missiles. The Sprint and Verizon modems had no signal at all.

So I decided to move on and drove over the hill until I ended up where I am now. I stopped here because it was the first place with an open view of San Francisco, but which was still very much in the Headlands.

After getting the Apple MacBook Air I'm also using on Road Trip out, I processed some photos and began plugging and unplugging the EVDO modems into the computer. It quickly turned out that, because I am in plain view of San Francisco, both are producing high-speed connectivity.

The iPhone, however, seems to be performing rather sluggishly.

Another thing I wanted to do while I was here was see if I could use the Internet to figure out the provenance of a huge container ship that was sailing under the bridge.

Seeing the name of the shipping company emblazoned on its side, Yang Ming, I figured I could do a quick Google search to discover shipping traffic information.

What I ended up finding out is that in order to get that kind of information, you have to be a member of the Maritime Exchange of the San Francisco Bay Region.

But, pulling out my reporter card, I called the exchange and the nice man on the other end of the phone told me that the ship is called the Y.M. Wealth, is flagged in Liberia, and was on its way into the Port of Oakland after sailing from Los Angeles. He couldn't tell me the cargo, other than that it was carrying a lot of containers--duh--or where it would be heading next.

The Verizon USB727, another EVDO modem I will be using on Road Trip 2008. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News.com

Anyway, the bridge is still totally blocked, the view is still otherwordly, and the technology that is allowing me to share that all with you is rather impressive.

Please keep watching this space for both my story on the Nike missile site and for the entire Road Trip.

 

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