Due to inclement weather today in Florida the Space Shuttle Endeavour (Orbiter Vehicle Designation OV-105), returning from mission STS-126, was diverted to the backup landing option at Edwards Air Force Base near Rosamond, CA (approximately 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles in the Antelope Valley).

sts-126_patch-svgIn total, the shuttle’s journey spanned 6.6 million miles and 250 orbits of Earth. Endeavour landed on temporary runway 22L at Edwards, while the main runway, 4R, is undergoing repairs — making it the first and last shuttle to do so.

This was the 124th space shuttle mission, the 22nd flight for the shuttle Endeavour and the 27th shuttle visit to the station. It was also the 52nd time a shuttle has landed at Edwards Air Force Base.

It will take approximately one week to prepare the shuttle for its return flight to Florida atop a modified 747 (called the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft) and will cost approximately $1.8 million.

Another unexpected item to add to the cost of this mission: a bag of tools valued at $100,000 dropped and forever lost by Astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper during the first space walk of the mission. The crew will be flown back to Johnson Space Center in Houston tomorrow.

I was able to record the double sonic booms the shuttle made upon re-entry with my Palm Centro and have embeded the file below — they sound like a cross between a shotgun and car backfiring, but were so loud in person that my entire house shook!

Below is an MP3 of the two sonic booms that occured during the shuttle’s re-entry (click the arrow to play the file).

Finally, here is video of the actual landing from the Associated Press:

Welcome back, Endeavour, and congratulations on a safe return from space!

On Monday, July 7, 2008, after enjoying a “one-day vacation” with my family in Big Bear Lake, CA I embarked on a 3 hour and 21 minute, 205.5 mile journey to Bakersfield. There I was scheduled to start teaching another session at DeVry University that evening.

view-of-big-bear-lake

I am only just now able to share the photos from this trip because the past two months were exceptionally challenging, but rewarding. Adjunct teaching is similar to walking a tight-rope without a net: high risk, but high reward. There is no paid leave, sick leave or traditional benefits.

I taught three classes at DeVry:

  • BUSN-115, Introduction to Business and Technology
  • COMP-100, Computer Applications for Business with Lab
  • ENGL-135, Advanced Composition

I also facilitated four to six concurrent online sessions for Axia College of University of Phoenix of:

  • COM-140, Contemporary Business Communication
  • COM-220, Research Writing

Amidst all that I was juggling some consulting projects and myriad responsibilities as the father of two amazing young boys. Despite the limited amount of free time I have, it was important to have some kind of a vacation with my family, even if doing so involved driving 350 miles in 6.5 hours during a 24 hour period.

Had I been able to spend more time on vacation I would have done so. However, my circumstance did not permit it — so I appreciated the time I did have, not the time I didn’t. Although my time in Big Bear was short, it was priceless.

We rented a pontoon boat and spent several hours driving around on the lake just relaxing and taking in the fresh air. I don’t step back and take a break much, especially these days, but it was a wonderful chance to partially recharge my batteries.

After spending the morning of July 7 on the water once more I loaded up my car, filled up the tank (at $4.73 a gallon!) and got what I thought would be a cheap automated car wash (it was $10!). I got on the road at almost exactly noon and was off on my big adventure.

My route included California Highway 18 north (through Apple Valley) to Interstate 15 North (briefly) to Highway 58 West (the starting point is near Hinkley, CA — made famous/infamous in the movie “Erin Brokovich”) and ending on Highway 99.  My stopping point was the Vagabond Inn (North Bakersfield).

The photos below document this pleasant and, thankfully, uneventful road trip.

Fueling up in Big Bear Lake ($4.73 a Gallon!)

Leaving Big Bear Lake on Highway 18

Some kind of processing plant at the base of the mountain

Decisions, Decisions…

Apple Valley (where are the apples?)

Getting onto Interstate 15 (it is the overpass in the distance)

Interstate 15 North

Highway 58 to Bakersfield

Highway 58 Near Hinkley, CA (made famous/infamous in “Erin Brokovich”)

Mojave (home of SpaceShipOne)

Leaving Mojave and heading up the mountain on Highway 58 West

Nearing Tehachapi

Nearing Bakersfield

Smoky skies from various wildfires (see YouTube video below)

The video below was shot during the last leg of my journey. The overcast/discolored sky that was the result of soot and smoke in the air from the Piute Fire (near Lake Isabella, CA) and, possibly, the Gap Fire that was burning in Goleta, CA (near Santa Barbara).

The music in the background is the theme from the movie “Napoleon Dynamite.”  For the music buffs out there it is called “Music For A Found Harmonium” and can be found on the album “Irish Times” by Patrick Street.

It seems to fit the video quite well. Don’t you agree, Napoleon? Gosh!

The “Bond” in all its glory – actually for $40 it is a great value

Scenic view of Highway 99 South from my luxury suite at the Vagabond Inn

All things considered it was a (thankfully) uneventful, yet interesting adventure. There was something unique and invigorating about seeing parts of California many people overlook.

The following day I filmed this video as I drove to the DeVry University Center at 3000 Ming Avenue.

The video below is of me approaching the DeVry campus. The music that accompanies this clip is called “Say Hello” off of the “Centuries Before Love and War” album of the group “Stars of Track and Field.” Notably, I went to elementary school and grew up with one of the members of the band: Dan Orvik.

Despite the often odd adventures I have driving to and from DeVry, one thing is for certain: my commute is never boring!

k_f2rqkjlbAt approximately 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 28, as I was attempting to make my way north on Interstate 5 from Santa Clarita, CA to Bakersfield, CA — where the final exam was taking place for one of the three classes I was teaching — I encountered a massive backup on Interstate 5 North in Castaic.

Apparently a tractor-trailer had broken down a few miles up the pass and the entire freeway was closed to northbound traffic. So much for progress!

How far up the pass the truck was I was unsure, just as I still can’t entirely understand how one broken down truck can completely close down a freeway. There was no way I was getting to Bakersfield on the 5 north anytime soon.

I was able to get off just in time to avoid getting stuck in it, but was amazed at how far the backup extended: basically from the Hasley Canyon overpass presumably all the way up the 5 to where the truck was actually stopped.

As you can tell by the short clip I filmed (below), the backup I passed while driving on the southbound freeway was easily three to five miles, but the entire backup was most likely closer to ten if you were able to follow it up all the way to where the traffic was first stopped.

Fortunately the final I was giving was one that did not require my immediate presence (students had been given it via PDF the week before and asked to complete various tasks in Microsoft Word and Excel — some students had even finished it before the last class).

Nevertheless I was determined to get to Bakersfield – I felt it was my duty and obligation. Plus it was the last night of class and I wanted to see my students and celebrate their achievement.

So, I continued on the 5 south, merged onto the 14 north, drove all the way to Mojave where I intersected with and merged onto Highway 58 West and drove all the way to Bakersfield. The entire effort took me roughly 2.5 hours, but I finally made it to class by roughly 7:15 p.m. that night (class began at 6:00 p.m.) and assisted my students!