One of the perks of my partnership with Toyota in the TWIN program, is being told of Toyota news, events, and goings ons as soon as it is available.
In fact, Toyota treats bloggers as members of the media. So, we see press releases just like any other news outlet does.
When we were told that a Toyota Tundra would be towing the Space Shuttle Endeavour for a portion of the route from LAX to the California Science Center, my very first instinct was to ask if I could be there.
I didn’t really know what I was asking, or what was going to be happening, or frankly, how big of a request I had just made…I just knew that if I had any ability to be there…I wanted it.
That’s my desk space.
And that framed photo of the Discovery has been hanging somewhere in my home for the last 10 years. I actually forgot all about it. But my point is: this is right up our alley.
Although I had asked about attending the event over a month beforehand, I didn’t have the actual go-ahead until the very day before.
And do you want to hear the saddest thing ever?
Andy was actually given press access alongside me (since they knew he was an aerospace engineer). Unfortunately, he had a business trip in Germany and was flying out that very night…and with the last minute confirmation of things, the cost to change his flight was out of reach. So he couldn’t go.
That’s like your football adoring husband being given Super Bowl tickets on the 40 yard line…and not just any Super Bowl, but the last Super Bowl in the history of Super Bowls…and not being able to go. Boo.
It wasn’t until I got to the site that I realized just how close I would be. And just how exclusive my access was.
I pulled up to a cordoned off parking lot manned by security and signs indicating it was for press.
That’s me. Right?
And was handed the absolutely coolest press pass in the history of press passes.
Not that I’ve ever been handed a press pass before, but I’m pretty sure this one is high on the list of cool ones.
Oh, and in media it’s called “your credentials”.
My. So fancy.
I was pretty much stressing.
I was the lone blogger.
Everyone else was legit media.
I was just Jeannett.
I felt silly and out of my league. I wasn’t CNN. Or Motor Trend. Or NBC. I thought they would all laugh at me. Roll their eyes. Scoff at my mom blogger self. I was nervous.
I was shuttled from the parking lot to the location a few blocks away.
Where I turned the corner to see this:
The space shuttle and Randy’s Donuts.
American icons side by side.
Europe has castles.
L.A. has a giant donut.
In fact, I was so close that the camera lens I brought with me wouldn’t let me capture the full length of the shuttle.
I assumed I’d be much further away.
Nope. It was just a matter of a few feet.
I had to use my iPhone to get full length shots.
If that isn’t a commercial for Apple…
Never having seen a space shuttle before I was shocked by its size.
As in, how small it was.
I mean, sitting on an average city street, it was huge.
But I couldn’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that it was smaller than the average commercial airliner.
And it’s BEEN TO SPACE.
More than once.
I loved that they didn’t clean it up.
I love that it was still filthy from millions of miles of travel.
Its adventures obvious.
But still I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that it looked fake.
As if it were made of paper mache and not specialized heat tiles and all sorts of things I can’t pretend to understand.
Like the world’s biggest pinata.
But it wasn’t a party decoration.
It was the Endeavour.
And I was in awe of human innovation.
Once I had snapped some photos, I thought I’d grab a donut.
When in Rome, right?
But sadly Randy wasn’t quite ready for the hub bub.
Or maybe there were some health code regulations about having a shuttle within so many feet of a dining establishment.
I don’t know.
But I do know I was sad.
Because a warm donut sounded heavenly.
As press, we had this big open area that we could just wander around in.
The not press?
Well, they were a little more squished.
One of the PR girls told me that she had been there since 2:00 in the afternoon…and some of those people were already there.
Now that’s dedication.
Astronauts milling about?
And all those fancy press people that I was intimidated by?
Nicest folks ever.
And not once rolled their eyes or belittled the fact that I was a blogger.
Turns out I had worried for nothing.
Lots of people were asking me why a truck had to tow the Shuttle…why it was only part of the way…why this section…etc.
I’m not an expert, but here is the quick answer:
The photo above is of the specially designed trailer that is operated via remote control. It’s all very precise and also very very heavy.
It carried the Shuttle most of the 12 miles, but the weight of this mechanized trailer plus the weight of the Endeavour were too heavy for the bridge that crosses the 405 Freeway.
So the Shuttle had to be moved to a more traditional type of trailer and pulled across.
Like a gigantic boat on its way to Spring Break.
I got to the site at 7:30 p.m.
The actual tow didn’t happen until a little after 11:00 p.m.
In some respects, it was kinda boring.
After all, once the shock of seeing a space shuttle in the road wears off, there’s still a lot of time to sit around.
But like Chris of U.S. News said “I thought I would be bored…but really, it’s delightful.”
Because no matter how you slice it…you’re bored with a space shuttle in the background.
You realize that while you really would like things to get going already…you are witnessing history.
And you’d be willing to wait for days.
The truck finally arrived.
It’s a Tundra. In case you were wondering.
And after hours of waiting, milling about, and making small talk…it started moving.
And even though it really was just a vehicle rolling down the street at 2.5 miles per hour…
it was breathtaking.
I was floored by the engines.
Now THOSE looked space worthy.
My images of a pinata were vanished at the sight of these.
I took some video with my phone…it’s not fancy, but I thought I’d include them.
And there she went.
With street signs and trees bowing for her arrival, and the entire City of Los Angeles on its feet…the Endeavour lumbered on.
As I headed back to my car, I was sad.
That really was it.
The end of an era.
The United States’ Space Shuttle program was over.
Just like that.
The Endeavour was the last of the fleet to make it to her final resting place.
My kids would never see them fly.
They would never count down with Mission Control.
We would never curl up on the couch in the wee hours of the California morning watching the live feed on TV from the folks in Florida.
But we will be sure to visit.
Endeavour will live at the California Science Center and be available for public viewing as soon as October 30.
For the first couple of years, she will be on display horizontally…while a new enclosure is being built.
But eventually she will be displayed standing up, in launch position.
And will be the only shuttle in the world in that configuration for public viewing.
I can’t wait to see it from another angle.
Disclosure: I was selected for participation in the TWIN community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of Toyota.