Mission Viejo

Best Park Linda Vista Park. A smallish park—but back in the day it was strategically juxtaposed between about three liquor stores and Linda Vista Elementary, our man Mike Lohrman remembers—which was good news. Junior high over, he and the crew would jump on their boards to cruise these liquor stores, seeking guys with Burt Reynolds mustaches to buy 'em beer. Afterwards, they'd scoot by the elementary (they liked the girls there) and then on to the grassy knoll. "There were a lot of kids who lived in the area," Lohrman says, "and it just seemed like a good party spot. You could sit at the top and watch for the cops to show up." El Tiempo Lane and Pepita Drive, Mission Viejo.

Best Export Nick Sanchez. A city firefighter and paramedic for nearly three decades, he is currently saving lives in New Orleans as team leader for California Task Force 5, an 80-strong expedition searching for Katrina survivors. If experience doesn't suit him well, his people skills should; a fellow rescuer suggests Sanchez could talk his way out of an alligator's mouth—good thing to know. Also: Sanchez's son Mark, a freshman quarterback for USC, was last year's top high school quarterback in the nation with the Mission Viejo Diablos. It's all connected. California Task Force 5, on the web at www.catf5.org.

Best Hill for Skating Depends on your ability to cheat death on a regular basis. Lohrman recommends Mosquero Lane, Saddleback Drive and Granvia Drive: "Mosquero was kind of mellow, Saddleback was a bit longer, and Granvia had the whole death bomber thing at the end—and the little hook. If you shot it standing up, making the corner was damn near impossible." Words to live by. Page 922, Square B-1, the Thomas Guide.

Best Cocaine Connection Ronald J. Lister. In 1986, police raided the Mission Viejo home of Ronald J. Lister. Maybe it was his relationships with drug dealers and gun runners. Perhaps it involved his private security firm, Pyramid, rich with insider connections. Or else a shiny yellow warning light went off somewhere when he bought that house with $374,000 in cash. The multiagency narcotics unit found no drugs in the home, just loads of high-tech surveillance equipment and paperwork detailing Lister's connections to El Salvador's Ministry of Defense, Irvine-based Fluor Corp., and the CIA. Files describing Lister's relationship to Bill Nelson, former CIA deputy director of operations, are classified to this day, and Lister's current whereabouts are unknown. Gary Webb, who was able to link the CIA to California's cocaine problem in the '80s, killed himself in December 2004. And so it goes. If we knew where he was, you wouldn't want to know.

Best Swim Club Mission Viejo Nadadores. Since 1968, the club has won 20 Olympic medals and 47 National Team Championships and has broken 91 world records. Its guiding light is head coach Bill Rose, described as one of "the few elite coaches in the world" by colleague John Dussliere. Rose is a star attraction: having coached Olympic and world champion teams, he draws world-renowned swimmers to train with his squad. This summer, they came from Japan and Indonesia to swim—a win-win: international talent helps the locals improve, and Dussliere says that without swimmers from all around the world competing in meets, "it's not a true competition." Oh, and nadadores translates to "swimmers." Marguerite Aquatics Center, 27474 Casta del Sol, Mission Viejo, (949) 380-2552.

Best Statue Florence Joyner, at Florence Joyner Olympiad Park. When death caught the former Olympian in '98, residents of her hometown demanded their Olympic-themed park be dedicated in her honor, complete with bronze statue. They designed the award-winning park with the International Olympic Committee—and that's how the canny devils were able to bag actual light fixtures from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics for the Tot Lot area—a children's playground rigged up like the real Olympic Villages, only not so much McDonald's. 22760 Olympiad Rd., Mission Viejo.

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