Satellite phone brings feeling of safety

Daniel calls his father on a sat phone from the middle of nowhere, and the signal is crystal clear.

I pulled over in the Infiniti QX56 I'm driving to call my dad and let him know which road I was taking in case something went wrong.
Daniel Terdiman/CNET

TEEC NOS POS, Ariz.--I had just left the Four Corners monument and was on my way to the Canyon de Chelly.

The map showed me two different routes. First, the main roads, a 93-mile route. Not bad, but longer than I wanted to go, since I had much farther to travel after visiting the canyon.

The other route was on a dirt road over some mountains. It looked far shorter. And it was all on roads that were on my AAA map. How hard could it be?

Plus, I had a brand new 4-wheel-drive SUV (an Infiniti QX56), gallons and gallons of water, a full tank of gas, three car navigation systems, plenty of food, warm clothes and on and on.

I felt pretty safe heading out on the back roads.

Iridium 9505A satellite phone
Iridium 9505A satellite phone Iridium

So, I started driving. At first, it wasn't so bad. But then I noticed that the road had a lot of washes, and they were all wet. And I looked into the sky, and it was menacingly dark. And it occurred to me that those washes could well get hit by flash floods if it started to storm.

I stopped the car, and thought about it. I finally decided to continue, but I wanted someone to know where I was going, just in case. Only problem? I was far away from a cell phone signal.

Luckily, I had a satellite phone, an Iridium 9505A that I had brought along as one of the many gadgets I've been carrying with me on Road Trip 2007.

So I pulled out the sat phone and called my father. I just wanted to let him know what road I had taken. I told him I would call back later to assure him all was well. But if he didn't hear back, maybe he should call someone.

The signal was crystal clear. It was better than any cell signal. I've used these phones before, but I am still amazed that out in the middle of the mountains, or the desert, or wherever, you can get a great signal with one of these devices.

Anyway, the road actually turned out to be too much. I got to a point where the car really didn't want to climb a particular hill. I probably could have done it if I had tried several times, but then again, I might have gotten stuck. I didn't want to try that badly. So I turned back.

Still, in the end, the jaunt was worth it because it gave me a chance to head into a totally wild, out-of-the-way place, feeling safe that I had all the bases covered. And that's worth a lot.

Mountain road
I used the Iridium 9505A satellite phone to let my dad know that I was heading into the mountains on this poorly maintained road. Daniel Terdiman/CNET