The only downside to amateur radio is that much of the equipment is not inexpensive. On the other hand, a lot of the 2 meter stuff (good for around town usually), is pretty reasonable. If you want to talk to the other side of the world, a typical HF rig will run a bit more. But that being said, I regularly work folks in California (I'm in NC) on 2 meters (and 70cm) via one of the many amateur accessible satellites in orbit. You can also work the space shuttle with the same rig, and when I lived in WI, we used to do a lot of moon bounce work. So to answer the question, you can "reach out" pretty far. See arrl.org for much more information. As for the OP, I tend to carry a VX-7R and in the car, I have a G707.