Friday afternoon we traveled up to the Reagan Ranch itself. Now this is a pretty great honour as it is not open to the public. It will open one day, but for now probably only a few hundred or thousand people have been there. This was more than just a ranch – he spent one eighth of his presidency here – it came to be known as the Western White House.
It is around 40 minutes out of Santa Barbara, and a very windy steep road takes you up to the ranch.
The ranch is around 600 acres, but is a very simple modest place. The main house is only 1500 square feet, and much of it was built by Reagan himself. We were told that the KGB commented when they came out there with Gorbachev that they would not understand how a country’s leader could live in such a simple house.
Nikki with the house in the background.
Myself with a nice view of the ranch. You get some idea of how high up we are here and how isolated. It is one of the most peaceful places on Earth.
The ranch entrance
This is in front of the house and is quite beautiful with its serenity
This man is John Barletta. He was one of Ronald Reagan’s closest friends, having been his secret service agent for 1eight years. He was a very good horseman and one of the few who could keep up with the President.
He has a wealth of tales about Reagan, his warmth, his sincerity, his sense of purpose. And also amusing stories of run-ins with the media such as where Sam Donaldson once suggested to Reagan that he only chopped wood for photo ops. They have a photo up on a pile of wood around five feet high that Reagan chopped in one day to show to Donaldson.
We spoke to John for over an hour. Again it was fascinating to speak to someone who was so close to a US President, and could deliver near unique insights.
The only new addition to the ranch (and out of sight from the main area) is the freedom wall where they list donors who have helped preserve it..
A great place for horse riding.
This plaque was put up by Reagan, and is meant to be typical of his humour.
I’m not sure if this concreting is also a sign of the same humour!
The jeep he used to drive around on.
Heh and the presidential seal on the lawn mower!
Tara was one of our guides for the day. She works for the Young America Foundation which purchased the ranch off Nancy Reagan. She was a great guide even though she admitted at one stage she didn’t know the answer to all the questions as normally she is their desktop publisher. This then led to people asking her about Macs vs PC, what software she uses and then the questions turned to her boots, her favourite music etc. The poor girl – she handled it all very well with great humour.
The red phone. You note it has no dial – only goes to one location.
The Kiwi contingent. Rob Good, Erica Slater, Shane Frith, myself and Nikki Kaye
You’re not allowed to take photos within the House. But Mrs Reagan has returned almost all their furnishings there so it looks identical to when they stayed there. Again quite small with two bedrooms and two living rooms.
The declaration agreed to by the participants. Pro free speech and free trade etc. There was an interesting debate in the terrorism section as to whether to use the term “evil”. It was eventually deleted as seen by some as having a religious significance which was not intended.
This is up by the old helicopter pad, with a view back into the valley.
And this is where Marine One used to land, if they were coming in by air.
We then finished the day having dinner at a local vineyard.
One of the great days. It is hard to put into words the deep connection one felt to the character of Reagan, as you saw his home and ranch, and thought about how that affected him and his decision. It was a near unique privilege, and without doubt was the highlight for everyone there.
If they ever open it up to the public, I’ll highly recommend anyone interested in politics visits it.