We climbed onto rooftops and hilltops, streamed out of houses and office buildings, pulled over our cars and gathered by the tens of thousands Friday, from the state Capitol to the Golden Gate Bridge to Disneyland, all to witness the historic final flight of the retired space shuttle Endeavour.

And we raised our cameras to capture an Instagram for the ages.

In a giant undulating farewell wave stretching from Sacramento to Los Angeles, spectators raised their hands in applause, their voices in cheers and their phones and cameras to capture the once-in-a-lifetime spectacle that ends the 30-year shuttle program and relegates the last of the five shuttles to a museum in Los Angeles.

"That made me feel like a little boy again,'' said George Kucera, 47, who watched with thousands near the Golden Gate Bridge on Friday morning. "I lost myself in a moment."

When Endeavour rose suddenly, magically, above the trees at Theuerkauf Elementary School in Mountain View, hundreds of school children shrieked with delight and chased the spaceship, piggybacked on a 747, across the schoolyard.

Social media lit up with Twitter updates and snapshots of the Endeavour flying over telephone poles, golf courses and strip malls and passing NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field and the Monterey Bay Aquarium along the way.

As one tweet pointed out, it was a day for Silicon Valley geeks to celebrate.

"What kind of geek are you?'' tweeted Ira Feldman. "Waiting at #Apple #iphone5 or for #Endevour #SpotTheShuttle #OV105?''

The shuttle and its carrier started their cross-country journey Wednesday from Florida's Kennedy Space Center, stopping in Houston one night and at Edwards Air Force Base in California's Mojave Desert the next. At 8:17 a.m. Friday morning, it took off from Edwards and about two hours later began delivering thrills to the Bay Area before zooming away to its final resting at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

It flew over the East Bay, first over Walnut Creek, Oakland and Hayward, then looped around San Francisco and twice by the Golden Gate Bridge before heading down the Peninsula.

Along the Hayward shoreline, some 200 people gathered, including naturalist Ann Graham. "What a view! I got goose bumps. It was so cool!" she said, "and I'm not a space nut."

At San Francisco's Crissy Field, crowds gathered on the piers for that post-card view of the Golden Gate Bridge. "We planned our run around this," said Sara Borowski, 28, jogging through San Francisco. "Best. Detour. Ever."

Down the Peninsula, it passed over Oracle, Facebook and Google.

Oracle engineer Andrea Evans, 48, tracked the shuttle's progress on her smartphone.

The space shuttle Endeavour mounted atop its 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft flies over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on Friday. The Endeavour made
The space shuttle Endeavour mounted atop its 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft flies over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on Friday. The Endeavour made a final tour on its trip from Kennedy Space Center to its new home in Los Angeles. (Ray Chavez/Staff)

"It's history," said Evans, an Australia native who remembers watching the Apollo moon landing as a child. "The end of an era."

A little after 10:30 a.m., the shuttle reached Moffett Field, where 15,000 people -- including astronauts and scientists who were part of the shuttle program -- lined up along the tarmac for a mile. Squinting at the horizon, they stared in awe as the shuttle appeared from behind the giant landmark Hangar One, dipped to about 800 feet and flew directly over the crowd.

"This is a once-in-a-million-lifetimes," said astronaut Steve Robinson, 56, a flight engineer with a total of four flights on Endeavour and Discovery. "There's a sense of pride and a little bit of sadness that the shuttle ride is over."

A few in the Moffett Field crowd shouted "Come back!" disappointed as the ferried shuttle flew past higher than originally planned. TV cameras pointing in the wrong direction had to swing around at the last moment.

"It could have made a U-turn," said Elaine Swanson, 61, who traveled from Redwood City at 6 a.m. to watch. "With all the taxpayer money, it wouldn't have hurt."

During Endeavour's 25 missions to space between 1992 and 2011, the craft serviced the International Space Station and repaired the Hubble Space Telescope. Endeavour was one of five space shuttles but one of only three to survive. The Atlantis will remain on display at the Kennedy Space Center. In similar flyby fashion, Discovery was retired in April to a Smithsonian center in Virginia.

1WS 620px Embed

In 1986, the Challenger exploded on takeoff. All seven passengers, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, were killed. In 2003, the shuttle Columbia exploded on its return home.

Former shuttle astronaut Karol "Bo" Bobko, who flew every shuttle but the Endeavour, was among the thousands at Moffett Field on Friday to say goodbye to an era in space history.

"It's a little sad because I realize this is the last flight of the last shuttle,'' he said. John Allmen, NASA Ames' shuttle program manager, kept his eyes fixed on Endeavour's tail until it disappeared. The flyover, he said, "was a tribute to all the people who worked on the shuttle here over the years."

NASA Ames scientist Jim Arnold, who helped develop the shuttles' heat shields, said his wife had a better view when it soared over their Saratoga backyard a few minutes later on its way over the Santa Cruz Mountains. One last glimpse of the ship was a validation of the work to come.

"We're not done yet," said Arnold, 76, who started his career working on the Apollo program and is still working as the senior scientist with entry systems. "I have the dream of putting people on Mars."

Staff writers Rebecca Parr, Katy Murphy, Aaron Kinney and Mark Gomez contributed to this report.

Follow Julia Prodis Sulek at Twitter.com/juliasulek.