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kidsmoke

What I Did With My Saturday Evening/Sunday Morning

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My son Brennan and I were feeling bored & decided to drive into L.A. to catch a club show (Patrick Park @ the Roxy - he was great as always!). As we drove in, I commented, "You know what we ought to do after the show? We should go find the space shuttle!" This was the weekend during which the retired space shuttle Endeavour was being transported from LAX, where it had arrived recently piggybacked onto a jumbo jet, to its permanent home 12 miles away at the California Science Center. How, you may ask? Why, by driving it through the streets of L.A., of course! :)

 

Have you seen any of the pictures? They are so sublimely surreal that they make me laugh out loud with delight. Here, look:

 

http://framework.lat...endeavour-2/#/0

 

Go ahead, click through those. You'll see what I mean. Try to find the one of the guys casually playing basketball at home, as the shuttle Endeavour noses past on the street behind them. I think that's my favorite. Looks like it's just sneaking through.

 

So we had a great time at the show, then back at the car we set the GPS for the California Science Center. Original estimates that day had put Endeavor's arrival there at approximately 2 a.m., which was getting close. As we arrived there, the excitement in the air was palpable. Little crowds were gathering on every streetcorner, and families were walking with little ones, pushing strollers, looking as if it were a sunny afternoon. It felt like a giant block party, although there were a lot more LAPD cruisers than you would expect at a block party. We drove like little old ladies who only took the car out for church services, so no problems. Interestingly, the only traffic incident we saw all night was a pretty crunchy crash between a police cruiser and a traffic control vehicle. (Also out in force) Mashed up front fenders, but nobody apparently hurt. A lot of these city forces must've been cross-eyed with exhaustion since the shuttle kept falling behind schedule and many workers had been on duty 18 or 19 hours at this point!

 

Brennan & I figured out pretty quickly that no, the shuttle wasn't at the Science Center yet. We thought it over a bit, looked up the shuttle's well-publicized route, and decided to backtrack until we found it. "You can't exactly hide a shuttle!", as we reasoned. :lol

 

We set out driving and could tell we were on the right path as the street closures became more and more frequent. We could also tell because clearly a lot of other drivers were on the same hunt. At a closed intersection you would see little trains of cars being diverted left, and these little trains would zip down a block, turn right, and continue in the right direction. We quit watching the GPS and just joined into a little car chain of vehicles that seemed to know the area...a zippy little yellow car, an expensive silver something, and us, dashing through the night. People were everywhere on the sidewalks, and there was a totally celebratory atmosphere. As we sailed through one large-ish intersection, Brennan looked to the left and burst out, "FOUND IT!!!"...and sure enough, in a glare of floodlights colored with flashing police blue and red, there was the distinctive outline of the soaring 5-story-tall tail, several blocks down the dark street. It boggled the mind, even at that distance. Like seeing the Queen Mary set down in the middle of Manhattan or something.

Our car train zigged and zagged a few more quick blocks until we bottomed out in a mall parking lot, parked, and spilled out into the night air. Felt like it was about 75 degrees, balmy as all get-out, the air calm. We crossed the parking lot and rounded the Macy's, and there she was. Our first view was palm trees and shuttle:

 

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The crowd was much bigger than it appears in these dark photos. Everyone was snapping photos and posing to prove they had been there. Endeavour was completely still, and, as we learned from people in the crowd, it had been for hours. The point at which it was stopped was the turn from Crenshaw Blvd. onto Martin Luther King Jr. and apparently the turn had been hard on the hydraulics of the massive trailer carrying the shuttle. A leak had been sprung and as we arrived workers were sweeping up the trail of absorbent powder that had been poured to catch the spilled fluid. We were told that the trailer had also blown one of its many tires. Somebody said the vehicle had blown its water pump. So, yeah, just another day of driving around L.A., basically. :)

 

Here we are proving we were there. I look drunk but I swear I was just shuttle-giddy:

 

20121014014642.jpg

 

Brennan is getting too tall for me to put my arm around his shoulder!

 

I get a kick out of looking at the tiny businesses the shuttle is passing....Louisiana Fried Chicken, a Chinese place, and to Brennan's left (out of picture) a Krispy Kreme that was probably doing its best business of the year, judging by all the boxes of donuts floating through the crowd. I hope somebody thought to offer some to L.A.'s Finest, because those bleary-eyed officers deserved some sugar. I heard later that they didn't have to make a single arrest with the crowds of shuttle-watchers. It was so amazing to be in this huge happy crowd in the middle of the night, and everybody polite, and friendly, saying "excuse me" and ducking carefully to avoid blocking each others' pictures. Complete strangers were taking photos for each other, offering even before they were asked...humanity at its nicest. Hard to imagine the Rodney King riots raging through these very same streets, not so long ago at all. The crowd was a complete cross-section of Angelenos, and ranged from tottering grandmas to tiny babies. I heard so many people say, "I wanted my kids to see this." Funny thing, too...it almost didn't matter what age you were, because the adults were as awestruck and mesmerized as the children were.

After we'd been there maybe half an hour, there was a roar of engines followed by the crowd's roar of approval and shouts of "Go Endeavour!" and "USA!" which, in this context, sounded great. Endeavour began to creep along at a stately .54 mph, a far cry from its space flight time of over 17,000 mph. To the crowd's cheers, it advanced about 100 ft. before something halted it again. Groans went up. But it wasn't long, maybe 10 minutes, before the engines sounded again and the shuttle began its slow advance, the crowd surging alongside.

 

More pictures!

 

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Kids with their toy shuttles, followed by the real thing.

 

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Looks pretty good for its odometer reading!

 

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Standing directly beneath the wing as it travels over me, about 8 ft. up. Gave me chills. You can see re-entry burns at the back edges of the wings and missing chunks of the heat resistant tiles, but the shuttle's in very impressive shape considering what it's gone through!

 

Ok, that's all the photos I can fit into one post, so I'll continue this account in another post, with a few more photos there.

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ummm,

that is

 

COMPLETELY AWESOME.

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Ok, so to finish the telling of my long-winded tale (sorry)!

 

As Endeavor began to make its agonizingly slow way down the first stretch of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., some of the crowd tagged along as others headed for their cars. We decided to move further down MLK so we went to the car, passing city trucks laden with loads of removed streetlights and traffic signals. They were following the shuttle in case more needed to be removed. The planning for this had taken over a year and everything that could be measured had been, but the crews were prepared for any eventuality. Some trees had had to be removed, but in every case where they possibly could, the trees were left. I heard later that in some places, the clearance between the shuttle's wingtip and a tree was literally credit-card thin.

 

We drove several blocks down and turned toward MLK Blvd. Traffic tape had been stretched across every entryway onto MLK, so we just took a sidestreet and drove as close as we could to the intersection. We watched as people drove up to the yellow "Do Not Cross" tape and simply turned off their ignition and left their cars..."Looks parked to me!" We got lucky and found one last bit of legal street parking, but it didn't seem to matter because despite some very creative parking, I didn't see any attempt at ticketing anyone. Police were everywhere...it might've been a great night for a crime spree elsewhere in the city, if I were a criminal element. But the worst I did was grab a souvenir bit of traffic tape off the street. Oh and walk out & stand on the double-yellow in the middle of the street to take a photo of the shuttle ambling our way. ("Outta the street!", called the nice officer.) Here it comes:

 

20121014023221.jpg

 

We joined the mass exodus on the sidewalk, moving toward the floodlights. Total party atmosphere, people out on their lawns in lawn chairs at 3 a.m.! The grassy curbside strip was laid with the huge traffic signals and streetlights that had been removed on our side. Every ten feet or so we passed one of the big, healthy pines that had been planted in honor of Dr. King, and which the City of Los Angeles had decided were too historically significant to remove. (Good call! :yes) Even as broad as this avenue is, though, the transport crew knew it wasn't wide enough. Endeavour's wingtips overhung the grassy verge, and at some points, even the sidewalks. So the only way to navigate this long stretch was to repeatedly angle and "crabwalk" the shuttle past a tree or power pole on one side, and then turn the nose to slip the opposite wing past whatever was on the other side. There's no way it was travelling even the estimated "point-five-four" mph, doing this. All the high-tech planning met low-tech necessity as it inched down the street, with crew members pointing flashlights at the wingtips, and tree trimmers walked alongside with long tree-pruning poles, trimming as needed. The trunks of the pines wound up bare for probably a dozen feet up, and there were clumps of pine branches all over at their bases, but they'll bounce back I'm sure. These are big trees with trunk diameters of probably 18 to 24 inches.

 

I've never seen so many police in one place...to look at it you'd have imagined some major disaster. They were on foot, in cruisers, golf carts, and lots of cool LAPD official bicycles. Here's the scene at an intersection about 2 blocks from the shuttle:

 

20121014024412.jpg

 

The jumble of metal on the lower right is a set of uninstalled traffic signals and streetlights.

 

It was so strange, glancing first one way down the street, which looked like any regular 3 a.m. street, (other than the missing street signals and lights, and the police presence) and then turning and looking toward the shuttle, which is so majestically massive that it took my breath away, looming there in the halflight like some huge hallucination. It was as if you turned and there was Godzilla, only without the terror. All the awe but none of the terror. The lighting was befitting a Hollywood spectacle...half the streetlights missing, floodlights on wheels, people waving iPads and cell phones for pictures, an LAPD helicopter trying to help by shining its high beam on the shuttle's wings, and those scattered, hopping beams of the workers' flashlights as they pruned trees.

 

Such a sweet, happy group watching, nobody crowding, people almost talking enough to become friends, like a big 4th of July parade or something. So damned fun I can't even do it justice. Laughing and marveling and calling out encouragements..."Endeavour to miss that tree!"

 

One last photo, beside a bank of floodlights, captures how beautiful and surreal the scene was:

 

20121014024758.jpg

 

We stayed for probably another hour, walking up and down, letting the shuttle's gigantic wing float over our heads several times, craning our necks back to read the numbers printed on the tiles on the wings' bottoms. I noticed the police bike squad get together to do a group bike swoop beneath the wing and then back again, for no law enforcement reason whatsoever...they were just enjoying the moment as much as everyone else! They stood in the street taking photos with their cell phones, as the fellow in charge stood out there driving the transporter from the controls of a little shoebox-sized box held at his waist, as if he was playing a video game. What a sight it all was.

 

Ok, now that you've all got eyestrain, I'll close this. I hope you've enjoyed reading, and got a sense of this once-in-a-lifetime drive through L.A.

 

Enjoy your retirement, Endeavor. You did great on "Mission 26" through Los Angeles!

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Cool pictures. We had company in town and completely forgot that this was the weekend of the move. I guess we'll just have to see it at the museum exhibit.

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Very cool. Thanks for sharing. I wanted to go and see the progress but things came up (they often do). I will wait for the museum to open I guess. Pretty amazing.

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When I was 14 we lived adjacent to an Air Force base in Ohio. In the summer of 1985 a family friend used his credentials to get us on base to get a view of the Challenger Space Shuttle, which was being transported on the back of jet. Of course, we all know what happened a few short months later in January of 1986.

 

I like your story better, Donna. Plus, you got a whole lot closer than we were allowed!

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ummm,

that is

 

COMPLETELY AWESOME.

 

Thanks, dagwave!

 

When I was 14 we lived adjacent to an Air Force base in Ohio. In the summer of 1985 a family friend used his credentials to get us on base to get a view of the Challenger Space Shuttle, which was being transported on the back of jet. Of course, we all know what happened a few short months later in January of 1986.

 

I like your story better, Donna. Plus, you got a whole lot closer than we were allowed!

 

Wow, Michael, I can only imagine how personal the loss must've felt to you when Challenger exploded. Endeavour was the shuttle built to replace Challenger, as it happens.

 

I remember feeling grateful that the Challenger disaster wasn't a day earlier, since the day before (January 27th) was my birthday. I didn't want "my" date associated with tragedy. Selfish and totally unimportant in the grand scheme of things, I know, but I guess it would be a bit like having a September 11th birthday now.

 

I want to go see Endeavour at the CA Science Center sometime soon, and bring my older son Tom & my daughter Alissa, since they weren't along with me & Brennan. Funny how L.A.'s unique, spread-out character allowed the shuttle to be driven across the city. I don't think there are too many other cities (if any!) that would lend themselves to having a space shuttle drive through. :lol

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Wow, Michael, I can only imagine how personal the loss must've felt to you when Challenger exploded. Endeavour was the shuttle built to replace Challenger, as it happens.

 

Nobody from my school informed us of the explosion. It wasn't until I got on the bus when some older students told me the space shuttle exploded. (We had just moved to NC at this point, so none of the other students had gotten to see the shuttle personally; so I think I took to the event more naturally.) I couldn't get my head around what they were saying because I was thinking they were talking about the eruption of gases that happens with all take-offs. I think they sensed my confusion and they made it clear that it blew up in the air - after take-off - with the crew on it - and they were all dead. I still couldn't fathom this possibility, in my mind space shuttles don't just blow up. It really took me the whole ride home to understand that even though I just saw this shuttle, it was gone and so was its crew. I spent the rest of the night in front of the tv. I remember reports of Ronald Reagan had one of his meetings interrupted, so he could be informed of the situation. He and his staff must have felt the same kind of confusion because they began to go about their business of the meeting before really grasping what had happened. They quickly came to their senses and cancelled the meeting. I think that's pretty indicative of how unfathomable the explosion was.

 

As far as my memory of my sighting of the Challenger: I was struck by how small the shuttle looked sitting on top of that jumbo jet. I'm not claustrophobic, but I don't think I could spend more than three days locked up in something that size.

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I know exactly what you mean. Some things you just can't even wrap your head around for awhile. i was working at an elementary school at that time, and I was up in the school cafeteria before school, chatting with the ladies in the kitchen there. The teacher who had the classroom next to ours came up to the counter where teachers signed up for lunches...she was the calmest, most rational sort of woman...and she was huge-eyed, and rambling to the group of us, "It blew up! It just....exploded!" She was almost incoherent from the shock of it. It was several long seconds before we were able to even understand what she was talking about. I remember teaching that day in a fog, feeling chilled. It didn't seem possible that this had really happened.

 

I wonder if that old, painful memory isn't part of why it felt so very good to see the magnificent, sturdy Endeavour rolling through Los Angeles like a conquering hero, with people calling out, "Welcome home!" (Endeavour was built in CA)

 

I'll bet everyone on this board remembers where they were and what they were doing the day Challenger exploded.

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I look drunk but I swear I was just shuttle-giddy:

 

Not unlike a first experience at a Wilco show?

 

Yes, no doubt those of us old enough do remember where we were when Challenger exploded. I was in the commons area of my college, chatting with a friend, when suddenly she was distracted and her face went blank. I thought for a second that I was yammering too much and should just wrap it up and shut up because she was drifting off, then looked over my shoulder to see what caught her eye, and saw the aftermath on the big TV screen in the commons. Chilling.

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