It's 11:00 pm and I am standing at the luggage conveyor belt at San Francisco international airport. Although my brain sees the clock my body still thinks it is in Europe where it is now 8.00 am. When my suitcase arrives all that is left for me to do after 19 hours of travel is collect the rental car and find my hotel. Because I travel abroad on a regular basis on business I know that it is often the last mile that either makes it a smooth journey or one of those travel horror stories. I had therefore asked the rental company for a car with a navigation system when I made the reservation, only to receive a reply that this feature is not available with the car I selected. Fantastic, I was looking forward to a sleep deprived, jet lagged midnight search for a hotel I never visited in a country I have only driven a car occasionally.
The only solution left is to bring your own navigation system and this has since the past year or so become a very useable solution with pocketpc or other pda based navigation software. At home I use TomTom Navigator, which runs on the PocketPC platform, and uses GPS for navigation. Since TomTom also offers maps of the US this seemed the logical choice for me and a good opportunity for a road test abroad. After my bag had arrived and I collected my rental car, I placed the Bluetooth GPS receiver on the dashboard, stuck the PocketPC holder against the windscreen, securely fastened by a suction cup, and turned it on. I then started the car and proceeded to drive out of the parking garage to stop at the first parking spot with some clear view of the sky.
Starting up TomTom Navigator and selecting the Bluetooth receiver for navigation.
Since I had already programmed all the addresses I knew I needed to visit under ‘favorites’ there was really nothing more for me to do then wait until the gps had found enough satellites to start navigation. This gave me an opportunity to find a radio station that would play my music during the calculated 58 minute drive to my hotel. I settled on KBLX with smooth and easy R&B. While listing to the music I switched to gps status on the navigation software to check on the satellite tracking progress. After a few minutes the GPS had only found two satellites, but had not locked onto either of them. It was then that I realized that the GPS did not know it was in San Francisco. The last time I used TomTom was in Amsterdam on my way to the airport. With a few quick taps on the screen I selected "reset GPS for this location" and about 45 seconds later I had a firm lock on six satellites. With a beep TomTom sprang into action and started calculating the route from my current location. Within 30 seconds the familiar voice sounded "After 100 meters turn left" and off I went.
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