California Day 6 – Endeavour

My original intention was to run this day, but with a sore foot (not sure why) and needing to be out by 07:30 it wasn’t really an option. Instead, I got up at 06:30 and was on the road an hour later driving north to Mann’s Chinese Theatre – the famous theatre where a number of premieres have taken place – including Star Wars in 1977.

Just around the corner from the theatre is some parking, but they charge $2.50 for every 12 minutes. Unfortunately we ran over into the second 12 minutes by just 4 minutes, but it wasn’t a bad stop. We got to see the impressive exterior of the building and also the stars and handprints for some well known people along the walk of fame.

One thing to note about the stars on the Hollywood walk of fame is how underneath each name is a glyph that represents what they are best known for, or rather why they got the star. So in the case of “Slash” he got his for his music, whereas the great comedic actor Robin Williams was obviously for acting. There are also images to represent the other types of career that make up Hollywood.

Back in the car we then carried on driving up onto the hill nearby to Canyon Lake Drive as I’d found this would be a good position to see the Hollywood sign relatively close-up. This did however then pose some problems trying to get a clear photograph of it due to the number of trees blocking the view – possibly intentional due to it being a residential area.

An hour later we then got to the California Science Center, arriving just before 10:00. The parking here cost $10, but the entrance to the museum itself is free. To start with we had to ask for directions for it from the Natural History Museum, but it turned out there are a couple of museums in this area.

Inside the museum we soon found that we needed to buy a $2 ticket each in order to gain access to the space shuttle Endeavour. This didn’t take long so we got back inside and tried to get to the space shuttle ahead of a school class that had arrived. Unfortunately when we got to the entrance we then found that we needed to exchange the tickets we just bought at a desk elsewhere on the floor to get a yellow admission ticket. A crazy system and one that was far from obvious.

Now having a second ticket we went back to the entrance and had a quick look at the information about the Endeavour before sitting down to watch a very short video about it’s arrival in LA and it’s transportation to the Science Center. Once this was over we finally got to head down to the hanger where it is located.

The first thing I noticed about the Endeavour is how you can see the wear and the discolouring from 19 years of service and the 25 missions it completed. This is a contrast to the Enterprise – that one was clean due to it not having any service history in space. Surrounding the space shuttle OV-105 are cards detailing each of it’s missions and a couple of videos about it’s history. The Endeavour was constructed after the destruction of the Challenger in 1986 – a disaster that resulted in a 36 month hiatus of the space shuttle program.

Leaving the hangar behind us, we then had a quick look around the air and space section, but it wasn’t that impressive. Instead of looking around any more we headed out to the car park where the map indicated a Blackbird was parked. Once we’d seen it we headed back to the science center for lunch. I went for crispy chicken and fries – and hoped for an evening meal I’d be able to avoid fries.

Our next stop of the day was the Bradbury Building, a registered historical and cultural landmark in downtown LA. Today it houses the LAPD Internal Affairs division, but it’s interest comes from both the design of the interior and it’s use in many film and TV productions including Blade Runner. The closest parking we could find for this cost $5 as a day rate near the LA Times building, but we only needed 20 minutes as once inside you can’t go above the ground floor.

What followed was then a long drive out of Los Angeles into the Mojave desert. This desert landscape takes up a good portion of this part of California but also stretches out into the states of Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. Driving along this part of route 62 we soon realised that we might not have enough fuel to get all the way to Palm Springs after this detour to Joshua Tree National Park, though fortunately we found a fuel stop in Yukka Valley.

At the entrance to the National Park it turned out that as it was Veterans Day we wouldn’t need to pay an entry fee – we could just continue driving. This park is so large that it’s not really an option to hike all of it unless you’ve got a lot of time there – instead you drive to what you want to see and then take the trails from there. As we’d only got a couple of hours until sunset we drove from place to place taking photographs as we went.

At each stop we spent no more than 10-15 minutes, but we got to see rock formations such as the one known as “Old Woman” which we could see climbers on. There was also an abundance of Yucca brevifolia, the Joshua Tree, for which the Park and town are named. On one of the trails I decided to climb some rocks but found their surface to be incredibly abrasive and cut my hand open when trying to climb.

The trail which led to Barker Dam was the only proper trail we took, though we found that the body of water it should be holding back had dried up to almost nothing – a strong reminder of California’s severe drought. By this point it was starting to get dark, but it was too late to find somewhere to get a sunset photograph in the park as the mountains were already hiding the sun from view. All we could do is head out of the park and back to the junction where we could then head on to Palm Springs.

By the time we got to the junction it had been dark for some time and so was driving farther out into the desert on the dark, unlit roads. Eventually though we made it to the town and to the motel that was booked for the night. Once there we walked down the road to a place called Rick’s Desert Grill for dinner. I went for their thanksgiving special – turkey with sage dressing, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and mashed potato.

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