I hate Halloween. I do. I'm not a complete grinch. I like seeing little kids dressed up and I hand out candy. I just hate ghouls and goblins and creepy crawlies and scary movies. So it was with dismay when I saw that the Great Balloon had been transformed into a giant pumpkin head.
"Que pasa, calabaza? (What's up, pumpkin head?)"
"Nada, nada, limonada. (Nothing's up, lemon head.)"
Ha! The things I remember from high school Spanish class.
Thwarted by a previous attempt a few weeks before, the middle '87 asked if I would take her to the Great Balloon. She had gotten there in time, but her turn wasn't up until 8 p.m. By then, visibility was poor and no flights were allowed.
Hey! I was the one who saw the LA Freebeee post and tipped her off about it. And she didn't even invite me when she went the first time?
We decided to go early so we could picnic on the grounds and make sure we were first in line. We stopped off to pick up some Vietnamese sandwiches and the younger '88.
Ack! That big old pumpkin head kept leering at us every which way.
It was a showdown between Tip Top Sandwiches - Garden Grove (Little Saigon) (two sandwiches for $6) and the original Banh Mi & Che CALI Bakery - Westminster (Little Saigon) (three sandwiches for $5), on the corner of Bolsa Avenue and Magnolia Street. Tip Top had thicker cut pickles, but overall bread, fillings, pate, and price still goes to Banh Mi & Che CALI. Quality varies by location and nothing beats the original for me.
We also got banh cuon (Vietnamese rolled rice noodles) from Thai Son Lo Banh Cuon - Westminster (Little Saigon) and nuoc mia (Vietnamese sugarcane juice) (Buy 3 get 1 free) from Hot Vit Lon Long An - Westminster (Little Saigon).
Like my log cabin quilt? I made it out of leftover fabric after I covered photo albums years ago.
We got there at 5 p.m. The girls had magazines and I had "The Lost Symbol" to keep us occupied while waiting for sign-ups, which didn't start until 6 p.m. The first evening flight doesn't start until 7 p.m. But we were more than content to picnic, take goofy pictures, and watch the sunset.
We were also vastly amused that there was a woman whose job was to wipe the signs. Those signs sure were clean as the woman walked around the park wiping one sign after another.
They're testing out the balloon. Almost time!
Brr. I had forgotten how cold it got in OC. We flipped over half of the quilt to keep us warm as we watched the balloon ascend.
According to the immaculately cleaned sign, the Great Balloon is one of the world's largest helium passenger balloons and is filled with 210,000 cubic feet of helium. It goes up to 400 feet, and ascends and descends at the rate of 3 feet per second. The gondola can carry up to 30 passengers and is wheelchair-accessible.
Because we were there so early, we were also first to go up. Yippee!
The balloon is always tethered and has been tested to hold 50 tons.
The north view of I-5.
Yeah, you know, going up in a helium balloon is kinda fun, except there's not a whole lot to see. It is Irvine, after all. You can look at the blur of lights and how it varied with each picture I took. :P
The south view of I-5. I think that's Irvine Spectrum in the far distance.
A look at the grounds of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station from above. The bottom right lit building is where we signed up for the flights and picked up tickets.
Total "flight" time was about 10 minutes, but that was more than enough for us. Plus, it's completely free. Can't argue with that.
More places to see and do in Southern California can be found in Explore SoCal.
The stops as we built our picnic at the Great Balloon at the Orange County Great Park:
Tip Top Sandwiches - Garden Grove (Little Saigon)
Banh Mi & Che CALI Bakery - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Thai Son Lo Banh Cuon - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Hot Vit Lon Long An - Westminster (Little Saigon)
Great Park Balloon
Orange County Great Park
No address, but directions are simple enough. Exit Sand Canyon Avenue off I-5, entrance is on Marine Way.
Thursday and Friday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Sign-ups for day flights begin 15 minutes before opening hours and sign-ups for night flights begin at 6 p.m. Whether the flights go up depends on current weather conditions.
1 year ago today, Pumpkin Ravioli with Browned Butter Sage Sauce.
2 years ago today, Okra and Tomatoes.