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Best of 2012: Bearing witness to historic Endeavour

Wheels writer catches glimpse of shuttle’s final journey

Published December 25, 2012

In a year filled with notable experiences, it’s hard to pinpoint a single one that stands out from the rest.

Being forced down in Chicago thanks to a smoke-filled galley on a recent San Francisco-bound flight was an experience I’d just as soon forget.

Fond as I am of firemen, I’d rather not see a fleet of them rushing to greet my plane as it taxis down a safe runway far from the terminals. After enduring more than six hours in the airport equivalent of Siberia, we were herded back on board, a burned-out wire in the galley’s ovens determined to be the culprit. Memorable? Perhaps, but something I’d rather not experience again, thank you very much.

A more endearing memory was having the opportunity to sit in the cockpit of Mazda’s Taiki concept vehicle at their Irvine, Calif. design studios. The futuristic supercar had just returned from filming the sci-fi flick Looper. Although the Taiki’s scenes, alas, ended up on the cutting room floor, it was gratifying to think my backside was planted in a seat once occupied by Bruce Willis.

But overall, I’d have to say the most indelible memory of 2012 came while driving the new Ford Fusion down the Pacific Coast Highway along the California coastline.

Gradually, we became aware that the highway was lined with thousands and thousands of onlookers, when it hit us — the space shuttle Endeavour was making its final flight over Los Angeles that very day.

In an unlikely stroke of luck, a space opened up on the jam-packed roadside, and we were able to quickly tuck the car in. Moments later, we watched in awe as the retired shuttle was piggybacked overhead by a Boeing 747. Unwittingly — we’d managed to be present while history was being made.

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