Saturday, August 19, 2006
Reagan Ranch; Rancho Del Cielo
Yesterday I had the privilege of joining Shane Frith, David Farrar (both pictured below in front of the home on Rancho del Cielo) and other right wing thinking young folk involved with the IYDU to an incite of the 40th President of the United States of America, Ronald W Reagan. It was a spectacular and very informing day.
After I arrived in Santa Barbara the first speaker was Presidential speech writer Peter Robinson. He spent six years in the White House, serving from 1982 to 1983 as chief speechwriter to Vice President George Bush and from 1983 to 1988 as special assistant and speechwriter to President Ronald Reagan. How he got the job was very interesting, but I guess that if we were at the Auckland Club that would be Chatham House rules.
Peter wrote the historic Berlin Wall address in which President Reagan called on Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!". From the sounds of it, it went down to the wire as to weather the words "tear down this wall" were to be included in the legendary speech that may well have been the straw that broke the camels back for communism. Contrary to advice given to him, the President chose to use the words and history was made.
This is me with Mr Robinson in front of a authentic piece of the Berlin Wall. It is just a pity that my eyes are shut......
After the very informative speech by Mr Robinson, we hopped aboard a bus for the 45 minute drive to "The Western White House", The Reagans 688 Acre ranch called Rancho del Cielo "Ranch in the sky". The property was reported to have been purchased by Governor of California and First Lady Reagan for $547,000 towards the end of his second term in 1974.
The property is not opened to the public and was purchased from Nancy Reagan by the Young America's Foundation in 1997 for around $4million. The property was left in it's original state as built by the President and is fully furnished including the book Witness by Whittaker Chambers which was a book that the President used as a guide during his time in office.
It was truly amazing to see the property and the humble home which had no A/C or fan in the bathroom from what I could see. The main house would have been less than 1000 Sq Ft and consisted of two bedrooms, a dining room with a magnificent outlook over the ranch and a 70's style kitchen. We were told that although the President didn't like to drink often, his favorite beverage with alcohol was a screwdriver which he would mix up in the small bar by the kitchen. I was pleased to see a sheep skin on the floor which was from New Zealand..... Maybe Mr and Mrs Muldoon visited the ranch at one point?
Out on the front lawn by the lake that Ronald Reagan dug out, John Barletta the Presidents riding partner and Secret Service agent gave us a speech about the President and gave us some great stories. John was with the President for 18 years and became one of his best friends. He has written a book called Riding with Reagan which has a lot of great stories about the President on the ranch.
John Barletta in the middle with myself and a gentleman from the Canadian contingent.
One in particular was funny. There was a grey heron that used to torment the goldfish and animals on the ranch. It was known to be particularly snappy and The Gipper was not to fond of it. One day the President spotted the bird and pulled out a pistol and fired a shot. We were not told if it connected with the heron, but what is known is that 50 secret service agents in their office just up the hill heard this shot and presumed the worse. They radioed John and asked for info. He said that all was fine as the President had shot.... They were not the best of words for him to pick, creating a massive panic for 50 agents. All was quickly sorted out and John promised to inform the agents before anything like that happened again.
Lake Lucky and the dock Ronald Reagan built by hand.
After having a nice time with John Barletta, we went for a tour of the ranch. We first went to a new area which has been added since the Reagan's sold the property. This is the area where all the people who donate to the project are honored called Freedom Wall. I have a nice picture of David Farrar next to a bronze of RWR with his cowboy hat on.
From there we walked to the Presidents utility shed complete with Jeep, an as new Subaru Brat, and this.......
The First Lawnmover complete with the seal of the President of the USA on the hood.... I particularly liked this one.
I then had the honor of ringing the bell that #40 would ring to notify Mrs Reagan that her horse was ready to mount ( pardon the pun ) in which they would ride off into the yonder accompanied by John Barletta and a swarm of Secret Service agents.
It was extremely peaceful up there, and I can see how anyone would like to use the place to relax (not that the President did much of that) think and recharge.
A magnificent day and I thank IYDU for the opportunity. It was also great to catch up with Shane and his "fiance", as well as meeting Kiwiblog author David Farrar.
Posted by Rob Good at 9:34 PM