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For pickup driver, towing shuttle over 405 was 'icing on the cake'

October 13, 2012 |  1:43 am

PHOTOS: Endeavour on L.A. streets

Matt McBride was nervous.

The 52-year-old professional driver was about to perform the most famous driving assignment of his career -- towing the space shuttle Endeavour across the 405 Freeway overpass with a pickup truck.

In total, he would be pulling 292,000 pounds with his Toyota Tundra -- made all the more difficult by a slight incline on the eastern edge of the overpass.

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

After 11:30 p.m., as McBride got ready to drive, the guy riding shotgun, retired astronaut Garrett Reisman, interrupted.

"Man, I gotta pee," Reisman said, according to McBride.

After some back and forth, McBride told the two-time space traveler: "I've got to concentrate. Don't even bug me."

TIMELINE: Endeavour's route through Los Angeles

The drive began smoothly for much of the bridge. But McBride had to push the truck harder than ever when he reached the 4% grade at the end of the overpass.

He was relieved when it was all over, and took in the crowd "watching and cheering."

"I've been doing this 23 years and this is the icing on the cake," said a relieved McBride, who works for Toyota. "It's a billion-dollar piece of equipment with history. If you wing it on something, not good."

MAP: Space shuttle's route

Among the mesmerized spectators was Charlotte Jackson, 60, of Inglewood, who waited four hours for the moment behind a barricade at a gas station.

"It's history to see it go to its final resting place," Jackson said. "I had tears in my eyes."

Before Endeavour arrived, Jackson had wanted to leave, tired of waiting. But her friend, Teressa Moore, 63, of Inglewood persuaded her to stay, saying, "We've come too far."

FULL COVERAGE: Endeavour's move through L.A.

Nine-year-old Sergio Ajaneo of Los Angeles, bundled up in a hoodie and beanie in the chilly fall night, beamed after the shuttle came and went.

"I'm always into space. It's the first time I saw it up close. It's amazing ... I want to touch it," he said.


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-- Joseph Serna in Inglewood

Photo: A pickup tows Endeavour over the bridge. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times