The area now known as Mile Square Regional Park, once a bean field, was acquired by the Navy as a training base half a century ago. The Fountain Valley site has had incarnations as a Marine helicopter landing field and strawberry fields before it opened to the public as a park in 1970.
8 to 9:30: The park is indeed a mile square, which makes it a four-mile walk or jog around the perimeter. Dozens of walkers and joggers were spotted along the path in a matter of minutes; one woman wearing roller-skates was speeding her baby stroller along.
Inside the park are other attractions.
The park is run by county rangers and patrolled by the Sheriff's Department, so it was a surprise to find Earl Tanner in a golf cart with a hand-scrawled "Marshal" sign on the windshield. But he was only presiding over the David L. Baker Memorial Golf Center parking lot.
"We'd had a few break-ins," Tanner said. "Since I've been here, it's just boring."
A triangular airstrip was once used for simulated Navy carrier landings. Now it is officially designated the Mile Square Regional Park Hobby Area, and signs warn, "No Learning to Drive!" Places within the area are assigned for radio-controlled and free-flight model aircraft, land sailing and radio-controlled cars. The rocket area has been closed; too many of the projectiles ended up on the golf course.
Between the hobby area and Euclid Street are an archery range and soccer, softball and baseball fields. Two lakes (one three acres, the other seven) are occasionally stocked with catfish; bluegill, carp and largemouth bass stock themselves. Bring your pole, and don't forget your fishing license.
The park is not only a place of activity, but also one for potential epiphanies.
The sun beats down early in the morning. A symphony of squawks, honks and hoots emanates from an island out in the middle of the larger lake. Only the occasional splashing of wings disturbs the placid lake surface. Ducks may be ducks, but some are garbed in royal blues and grays, some in drab earth tones; the red-headed Muscovy doesn't quack, it hisses. The circled eyes of Egyptian geese recall the "Our Gang" dog.
Walking back across the carefully manicured grounds, I passed a children's playground and spray pool, where a lordly Rottweiler watched over its young charge, a page right out of the "Carl" series of children's books featuring the same breed.
9:30 to 10:15: Anybody who has watched ducks under a beating sun for any amount of time will be badly in need of some midmorning rejuvenation, and the perfect spot is Jugos Vallarta, a Mexican deli featuring Hawaiian fruit salads and a variety of shakes and fresh juices.
I opted for a \o7 carnitas \f7 tamale and a Vampire ($3), a juice drink of beets, celery, apple, pineapple, cucumber, carrots, orange, banana, papaya, cantaloupe and honey. Boy, will \o7 that \f7 rejuvenate you! Next time, "Chick's Beak" salad (small, $2.50, large $4): pineapple, papaya, cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumber, jicama, orange, chili, salt and lemon.
Aside from the juice of natural fruits, shakes made using natural fruits and "choco-milks" with natural fruits ($1.75 to $3, and 50 cents more to add eggs) are also available. For even more substantial morning fare, among half a dozen choices for breakfast ($2.99) are 3 Poisonous Eggs, a not-so-poisonous-sounding concoction of spinach, lettuce, onion, ham, chili and Chihuahua cheese.
The jukebox offers mostly Spanish-language tunes, but also Merle Haggard's "A Bar in Bakersfield."
10:15 to 11: In the land "a little left of reality," and of Edinger Avenue, you'll find limited-edition prints by James C. Christensen (and more mainstream, less interesting Americana) at Art Works, Etc. Think of Christensen as Hieronymus Bosch with a sense of humor.
"Most people think of him as fantasies and fairies, but it goes deeper than that," noted Art Works owner Fred Turra. "He's quite a student of mythology and religion, and he incorporates that into just about everything. Each of his works is a fable; there's always some kind of meaning behind it."
More impressive Christensen prints include "The Royal Music Barque," an embossed and gilt affair set in the skies, but "Lawrence Pretended Not to Notice That a Bear Had Become Attached to His Coattail" may offer a better example of a fable for our time.
"This is the story of (us) average, everyday guys who walk through life and ignore our little troubles until they become very big ones," Turra explained. "And then we still pretend not to notice."
1) Mile Square Regional Park
16801 Euclid St., Fountain Valley.
Open daily, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
2) Jugos Vallarta
5015 W. Edinger Ave., Suite H, Santa Ana
Open Monday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m to 9:30 p.m.
3) Art Works, Etc.
16169 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley
Open Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.
PARKING / BUSES
P) There is $2 parking throughout the park and free parking at the other sites.
B) OCTA bus 70 travels on Edinger Avenue; 37 on Euclid Street; 35 north on Brookhurst Street, and 72 on Warner Avenue.