Crowds, workers prepare for Endeavour's arrival at California Science Center
Endeavour is continuing to make its way up Crenshaw Boulevard after it was temporarily stalled at 73rd Street as workers trimmed branches so the shuttle could navigate around a tree and utility pole.
The shuttle was supposed to reach Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard for a 2 p.m. performance orchestrated by Debbie Allen. Just before 4 p.m., it crept past 63rd Street, about two miles away.
The shuttle is headed to its new home at the California Science Center in Exposition Park.
Meanwhile, Metro workers in neon orange-and-yellow vests clustered on the Expo/USC platform of the Expo Line light rail line about 2:45 p.m., several hours before Endeavour was expected to roll up to the nearby California Science Center.
"You guys here to help?" asked Mike Martinez, who works for Metro operations, looking up at several workers from his clipboard. They nodded.
"Basically, your job is crowd control," Martinez said, as the walkie-talkie clipped to his belt began to squawk. "As we get closer, people are going to pay less and less attention to the lights. We gotta keep them safe."
Officials expect the station, which borders Exposition Park and USC, will see between 25,000 and 30,000 riders Saturday. In preparation, they've stationed eight extra Metro workers at each of three stations: Vermont, Exposition and Western. They'll move people on and off the trains as quickly as possible.
Michael Cole stood at the crosswalk, directing a steady stream of traffic toward the Rose Garden and into the Science Center, where the gift shop was selling stuffed plush shuttle toys and lime-green "I Heart My Space Shuttle" T-shirts.
Cole has worked for Metro for more than 20 years, and said the ridership -- three times the normal daily amount -- compares to the crowds before USC football games at the Coliseum. But they expect the shuttle crowd to be more docile.
"I'd rather have five shuttles than one football game," Cole said. "No angry losers here."
People were also gathering at the California Science Center on Saturday afternoon, armed with snacks, folding chairs, DVDs and -- of course -- toy space shuttles.
Four-year-old Jeremiah Arauz was excited.
"This is a big deal for him," said Rachel Velasquez, Jeremiah's mother, who drove with her son and mother to the center from their home in Fontana at 11:30 a.m.
The trio was among the first to arrive at the Science Center, which is the final stop on the space shuttle's two-day, 12-mile trek across Los Angeles.
Science Center volunteers have been telling early arrivals not to expect the shuttle until sometime between 6:30 and 9 p.m. Still, many spectators chose to set up camp and wait it out.
"I didn't want to get here too late and hit the crowds," Velasquez said, adding that she'll probably spend the afternoon watching Jeremiah's “Thomas the Tank Engine” movies and watching him play with his toy space ships.
"It's worth the wait," she said. "When else do you get to see a space shuttle driving through your city?"
In the meantime, Jeremiah is content to reenact the sight of the Endeavour's arrival with his space ship figurines.
"It came flying in over the sky and was on top of the plane," Jeremiah said, holding his extended hands atop one another - thumb and pinkie extended like aircraft wings - in demonstration.
"It was a plane just like that one," he shouted as an airliner flew overhead.
Robert Gonzales arrived with his folding chair at 11 a.m. "I know the traffic madness that can happen, so I'm out here early," he said. "This is history in the making, it's like reliving my childhood."
The Science Center has laid heavy planks across the front lawn leading to the pavilion where the shuttle will conclude its trip. While small crowds have begun to camp out near the lawn, at 5:30 p.m. all spectators will be corralled into two parking lots that have been outfitted with portable lights, port-a-potties and trash cans.
The shuttle will approach the center along Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. before turning left onto Bill Robertson Road, which will lead it past the parking lots.
"I've had people calling me all day asking me to save them a spot," Gonzales said. "But once I'm in that lot, I don't know you. It's all about making sure I can guarantee my view."
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