My husband, Eric and I, had a wonderful opportunity recently to visit a little ranch just north of the city of Santa Barbara, California.
To get there, we had to drive up a winding, bumpy, one-lane road. I kept thinking that surely our guide had made some mistake. We were way too high and in a place that seemed wild and uninhabitable. Still the road continued to climb.
The road is unpaved most of the way and it’s very slow going. It took us about thirty minutes to drive up to what seemed to us like the top of the world, traveling only at about twenty miles an hour for the entire trip.
Suddenly, we reached a high point where the vast blue ocean was visible and breathtaking. There didn’t appear to be anything up here. In awe, we thought of how amazing it must have been for the earliest settlers who first witnessed this tranquil scene. From this vantage point in the Santa Ynez Mountains, we could finally understand why this ocean was named “pacific.”
At the top of this mountain, at the end of this seemingly road-to-nowhere was our destination: Rancho del Cielo. Also known as The Reagan Ranch.
As we drove up the gravel road and our friend and guide, Bryant, unlocked the gate that led to a tiny, one-story, adobe and stucco house, I wondered aloud where exactly the actual Reagan Ranch was.
We parked and walked up to the little patio in front of the tiny house and it was when I saw the sign on the patio overhang that I had my second of many a-ha moments for the day.
My thoughts then turned to former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. I wondered if he was as confused as I initially was. This place? This is where the powerful capitalist president chose to make his home? That realization must have blown his mind.
The furniture inside was shockingly plain. Brown wicker with woven American Indian blankets and memorabilia here and there. A cowboy hat here, a peace pipe there. There’s a pot bellied stove in the front room, which we were told provided the only heat to this front room. (No, I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside. *Sigh*)
Ronald Reagan’s books are still on the shelves. The kitchen still has the original Harvest Gold appliances from the 70’s and it’s small. In fact, there’s barely room for one person to turn around in it. (I promise I will never complain about the size of my kitchen again.)
Above the fireplace in the unpretentious living room is the Presidential Seal. One of the few clues that the inhabitant of this house was once one of the most powerful and influential people on the planet.
The largest room in this modest house is the bedroom where two twin beds are pushed against each other, with the headboards held together by twist-ties. There’s a homemade quilt monogrammed with an “R.” There are hand-stitched pillows on the bed.
The closet holds a few old western-type work shirts, cowboy hats and boots. (Yes, I got to go into Ronald Reagan’s closet. I know. Shut up. And yes, I was tempted, just for a moment, to snap photos of his Stetson hats and collection of cowboy and English riding boots, but that’s not important right now.) On the other side of the small walk-in closet hang a few of Nancy’s ranch clothes and hats.
When I was young and Ronald Reagan was California’s governor, I used to think that he was a little corny. But as I stood in what was once his home, I thought how simple and unpretentious was the man who lived here. And how very, very genuine. Ronald Reagan believed what he said and lived what he believed.
He believed in American exceptionalism. He believed in the American dream. It was here, at Rancho del Cielo, where President Reagan signed the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981. He believed that a costly government was also often an incompetent one.
He believed in the value of hard work and built the fences on the ranch with his own hands from discarded telephone poles. His beloved ranch perfectly illustrates the high value he placed on simplicity and freedom.
He believed and often repeated that the most important words of the U.S. Constitution are the ones that begin it: “We, the people…”
In the time since our visit to the Reagan Ranch, my admiration for President Reagan has grown. I am now, more than ever, unapologetically a proud Reagan Conservative.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The actions and words of Ronald Reagan, our 40th president were in large part responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the salvation of millions of lives which would otherwise be lost to communism. Ronald Reagan spent his entire life fighting against and prevailing over the evil that is communism.
When I read the news, it seems that evil is once again growing, unchallenged. I'm also encouraged, because I see signs that conservatism is also on the ascendancy once again.
All we need now is another Ronald Reagan.
"I know in my heart that man is good.
That what is right will always eventually triumph.
And there's purpose and worth to each and every life." ~ Ronald Reagan
A very special thank-you to our guide and friend, Bryant Conger for the amazing tour. Thanks also to Young America’s Foundation for all you have done to preserve the Reagan legacy and for all you continue to do for the cause of conservatism.
(cross-posted at Babalú blog)