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Endeavour: 'I couldn't believe it when I first saw it'

October 12, 2012 |  3:12 pm


This post has been changed. See the note at the end.

Eighty-year-old Bill Douglass is a self-described "space nut."

He's seen almost every shuttle launch since he retired in 2000, making the four-day drive from his home in Scotts Valley, near Santa Cruz, to the Motel 6 in Cocoa Beach, Fla., where he stayed for each send-off.

He's also traveled to Vandenberg Air Force Base for rocket launches by private companies, and spent a lot of time in space museums. So he wasn't about to miss Endeavour's final trip.

FULL COVERAGE: Endeavour's final journey to L.A.

Douglass drove from his Northern California home to a relative's house in Orange County. He drove up early Friday to the Westchester parking lot where he was one of the "rivers of people" who turned out to snap pictures of the shuttle during its eight-hour pit stop as it makes its two-day trek from LAX to the California Science Center.

"I was asking myself, 'Why am I doing this when it's over?' " he said of seeing a space shuttle that will never fly again. "It's saying goodbye to it, celebrating the fact that it's retired.

"I couldn't believe it when I first saw it," he continued. "This is the closest I've ever been to a real one."

PHOTOS: Endeavour rolls through the streets of L.A.

The shuttle was a "little weathered," Douglass said, but something he was glad he got to see.

"Oh, yeah," he said. "It was fun."

Elsewhere in the crowd of onlookers, Tiffany Hsu, a software developer who lives in West Los Angeles, said she wasn’t about to miss this bit of history and took the day off from work.

She got to La Tijera about an hour before Endeavour began moving out of the Westchester parking lot where it had sat for the morning.

TIMELINE: Endeavour's journey through L.A.

“It was incredible,” she said, noting that the shadow of the shuttle’s wing passed over her, making her feel as if she could touch it. “Especially with the wings going over. It’s so massive.”

Across the street, several dozen students from nearby Wish Charter Elementary School were wildly screaming as the shuttle made its way along the street.

Police had sectioned off chunks of the sidewalk along the route, so people cut through different parking lots to keep up with the shuttle instead.

By 2:15 p.m. Friday, the masses had congregated on Manchester just west of La Tijera and people meandered around one another vying for the best photo spots.

Neev Zaiet, 21, teetered atop the roof of a yellow Hummer parked just west of the shuttle as she waited to snap a picture on her iPhone.

"Someone took the cones down and we just drove in," she said through a smile.

As the shuttle drove off, a mantra gained volume: "USA! USA! USA!"

Endeavour will trundle down Manchester at 2 mph, passing into Inglewood at Glasgow Avenue, where it will stop again for several hours. Crews there will move the orbiter onto the dolly system that will tow it over the 405 Freeway beginning about 10 p.m. Friday.

Planning on seeing the shuttle? Tweet your photos to @latimes or with the hashtag #SpotTheShuttle or upload them here — and don't forget to tell us where you are.

Endeavour begins trek to Science Center

Storified by LA Times - LA NOW · Fri, Oct 12 2012 15:35:46

officers outside and even some SWAT officers on the roof of 1019 West Art Studios. #SpotTheShuttle http://pic.twitter.com/6Pqcle7JAdolfo Flores
Lance Glover, band member of Health and Beauty, plays audio mixes from Soyuz and Apollo missions. #SpotTheShuttle http://pic.twitter.com/szMxtb09Adolfo Flores
Wow. http://pic.twitter.com/Ysy1o6V4Frank Shyong
The Endeavor at Manchester Blvd and Airport Blvd #spottheshuttle http://instagr.am/p/QsrnuNO1JO/Wesley Lowery
People are starting to gather at Manchester Blvd and Hindry Ave for the shuttle. #SpotTheShuttle http://pic.twitter.com/mllupB6EAdolfo Flores
Crowds gathering in the parking lot of a Seven Eleven as Endeavour approaches. Can you spot it? http://pic.twitter.com/coMCJPhHFrank Shyong
Shuttle's moving! #SpotTheShuttle http://pic.twitter.com/00tNpKFcMarisa Gerber
Downed streetlight at Manchester and Ash in preparation for shuttle maneuvers. http://pic.twitter.com/4k84Wb8hFrank Shyong
A passerby sees a man hawking posters of the shuttle: "That guy's out here to make a dollar. Gotta respect the hustle." #SpotTheShuttleMarisa Gerber
Emeka Dawkins, a third grader at Westport Heights Elementary School, is all about Endeavor. #SpotTheShuttle http://pic.twitter.com/PY3ViYxKMarisa Gerber
#endeavour sighting round 2. The progress is slow after some tree trimmers were called in. #spottheshuttle sepulveda http://pic.twitter.com/3AwEEsiOChristine Mai-Duc
Yup this is happening. #spottheshuttle http://pic.twitter.com/FFIT6loRChristine Mai-Duc
Don't think I've ever seen that traffic sign before...#spottheshuttle http://pic.twitter.com/AbuQUq6AChristine Mai-Duc
Waiting to #spottheshuttle at #LAX. Photographer Bryan Chan confirms the hangar door is open, #Endeavour is on the move. More soon @lanow.Christine Mai-Duc

For the record, Oct. 12, 4:04 p.m.: A previous version of this post said the students from Wish Charter Elementary School screamed as the shuttle turned onto Manchester. The shuttle was on La Tijera.


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-- Kate Mather, Andrew Khouri and Marisa Gerber in Westchester