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Lodians witness Endeavour’s final journey through Los Angeles

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Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:34 am, Thu Oct 18, 2012.

The nation was watching last weekend as the space shuttle Endeavour was carefully towed to its final home at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. But three Lodians were in the middle of the action with a great view of history.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour was retired in September after 10 years and 25 missions to space. The shuttle spent more than 296 days in space, and orbited the planet more than 4,670 times.

It took nearly as much precision and planning to move a shuttle though L.A. streets as it did to launch the shuttle into space.

It took a weekend to move Endeavour 12 miles through L.A. and Inglewood. It left the Los Angeles international Airport on Friday morning and settled in at the museum on Monday morning.

There was a sea of blue overalls and hard hats from the rigging crews from Sarens, tree cutters, city maintenance, police enforcement on bikes, motorcycles, cars and helicopters all working hard for a common cause: to get the Endeavour to its final home.

Lloyd Patterson, of Patterson's Heavy Haul in Lodi, was among them.

Patterson's truck held two massive custom dollies steady while the shuttle was lowered onto them near Interstate 405 on Friday night. The dollies were built by Geremy Rackley from Stockton-based Rackley Bilt Custom Trailers, and looked like a pair of oversized boat trailers. Next, a Toyota Tundra truck was hooked up to the dollies and pulled the shuttle slowly over the freeway for a national TV commercial.

Patterson and Rackley were confident with the dollies, but they anxiously awaited the word "action" with the whole nation watching as news helicopters filmed the scene live from above, according to Lloyd Patterson's daughter Samantha Patterson.

"Then it started to roll, with ease and without struggle. When it reached the opposite side of the 405 bridge, the months of planning, executing, adding, revamping of the dollies (was) a success," she said, adding that one of the producers walked up and shook hands to congratulate the men.

Samantha Patterson said there were a couple of really exciting parts that stood out in her mind. When she first arrived at Manchester Boulevard on Friday, Lloyd Patterson's truck and the dollies were aligned on orange markers painted onto the road, prepared and patiently waiting for its special cargo to arrive.

"Everyone around seemed restless, except for Dad. He always seems so calm and patient no matter what the situation," she said. "You start to hear the crowds cheer and a swarm of photographers crowd the street and the sight of the Endeavour appears as it makes its way around the corner. It appears to be in slow motion, like an effect in a movie, but realistically that's actually the speed its going."

After the shuttle made it over the bridge, the rest of the weekend went by in stops and starts.

A local teenager was able to tag along, too, and watch history in the making.

At 16, Branden Staples is too young to do much of the heavy lifting, but he was right on the sidelines watching crews make the minute adjustments to transport the Endeavour.

Staple's parents, Lisa and Michael Staples, own Hammer Hauling in Lodi, where Patterson stows his trucks. Staples has ridden along on many similar adventures with Patterson, and wasn't about to sit this one out.

"It's one of the biggest things I've ever seen moved. It was cool," said Staples.

Massive crowds poured onto the streets to watch. Crews took down light poles, trees, street signs and anything in the way of the shuttle.

"Stuff was just scattered in the street, like a war zone or something. Everywhere you looked there was a cop," Staples said.

Hauling has been in the family for generations, and Staples has grown up around massive trucks and engines.

Watching the Endeavour effort gave him even more insight into just how much work it takes to move the big stuff. From chaining to permits to brake maintenance, most of the heavy hauling process is in the prep work. But hard work doesn't scare Staples, who wants to take over the family business in the future. Adventures like this one fuel his fire.

"I'll never, ever get to do something like that again," he said. "I guess I'm pretty lucky."

Samantha Patterson was also touched by the experience.

"To have something so significant, the Endeavour, inches away from you is very exciting. You can't help but stare at it and take as many pictures as possible, because you know this is a once in a lifetime experience."

Lloyd Patterson is still in Los Angeles and could not be reached.

Contact reporters Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com and Jennifer Bonnet at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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