The California ScienCenter

One reason I do not qualify as particularly adventurous is because adventure, by definition, means you don’t know what’s going to happen next. And I like knowing what’s going to happen next. I like routine, “normal”, expected activities. I would rather avoid the stress of trying something new and all the unknowns that come along with newness. I don’t so much mind an adventure as long as I’m with someone I trust to handle all the stressful hiccups that are bound to happen along the way.

However, in a blazing heat wave of late August in SoCal, there are only so many places to go to escape the sensation that you’re living on the surface of the sun. On one particular day, as the temperatures rose into the 100’s, I packed up the boys and headed downtown to explore the California ScienCenter, a free museum with air conditioning.

This is the kind of activity I have to talk myself into. I know, I know. I sound crazy. It’s free. It’s fun. It’s local. What do I have to talk myself into? Well…I don’t know, I guess the whole drive to a different location, managing kiddos and their “necessary” paraphernalia, the crazy glitches inevitable on these sorts of day trips. Am I crazy?

Anyway, but I work up the gumption and we’re off. I navigate traffic and pull into the museum complex greeted by a sign: $12.00 for parking. Bummer. So much for free. Well, whatever, I guess they have to make some money somehow. It’s blistering hot, I’ll pay for the conveniently close parking. I pull up, lower the window and hand over my credit card.

“It’s cash only,” informs the grumpy looking parking attendant, not apologetic in the least.

“You’re kidding!”

“No.” (not helpful)

“So what should I do if I don’t have twelve dollars in cash?” I ask, frustrated. (Looks like we had our glitch for this mission.)

“You’ll have to go to a 7/11 and get some.” Really not helpful. This is too much. I sort of lose it, which I’m typically not that kind of person.

“Really. What century is this? So, I have to go drive around downtown till I find an ATM, unload my two kids from their 5-point harnesses, lug them inside to touch germ-infested surfaces and try to wrangle them to stay close while I withdrawal a few bucks, load them back into their carseats and buckle them up again to come back here and pay $12 for a few hours parking?!”

That’s it. I refuse to abort the whole mission over this minor inconvenience, but I will not be parking in any high-priced lot guarded by a very un-helpful grump! I spend half an hour wandering a few-block perimeter till I find a spot. Not even metered. Score! Except then we have to walk half a mile in the blazing sun and climbing temperatures through a not-so-nice neighborhood in downtown LA. But I didn’t give in!

Ahh, the air conditioning was worth it! And the space stuff! They really do have cool space stuff!

Like this lifesize model of the Cassini spacecraft that went to Saturn (on loan from JPL).

You can see a ⅕ scale model of Hubble Space Telescope, an Apollo command module, and the actual Gemini 11 and Mercury-Redstone 2. After we geeked out about all that for awhile, we went to see the crown jewel of their space program collection: the space shuttle Endeavour.

I didn’t tell Eddie what we were going to see. He has a fascination with the space shuttles born from a little Smithsonian documentary on Netflix about the process of moving Discovery to Washington’s Air and Space Museum by strapping it onto a 747 and unloading it via crane. He will sit enraptured, eyes glued to the screen for the entire 51 minutes, and he’s seen it several dozen times!

So when we walked into the giant hall where Endeavour hangs suspended from the ceiling, I was watching closely for his reaction. He did not disappoint. His eyes widened, his jaw involuntarily dropped and he audibly gasped. “Wow!”

That right there is why it’s worth it to talk myself into these little adventures.


Right after this my phone died. Not a big deal other than it’s also my timepiece and camera. We had fun looking a few more exhibits, eating our packed lunch, and watching a 3-D IMAX movie about the International Space Station (like the eclipse, once again, Eddie struggled to wear the glasses. “But Mom, it looks cool even before you look through the glasses!”)

As we made the long trek back to our car in the intense heat, I battled silly worries of discovering my “lucky” free parking space was actually a tow zone, and with my phone’s dead battery being completely at the mercy of finding a stranger to help us. These fears were unfounded and our car was right where we left it, super-heated by the blazing sun. The boys buckled in their seats, the AC cranked, my phone plugged into the car charger, we headed for home. As the tired boys napped in the quiet car, I processed my weird hesitation when it comes to these relatively simple adventures. Glitches and all, it’s so worth it to take advantage of all our city provides when it comes to learning and experiencing new things. Shucks, it was probably even worth $12.

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