By YM/GySgt Luke Smith Division 6 PublicAffairs Correspondent North San Diego Late last April, I had the honor of taking a private tour of for- mer President Ronald Reagan’s ranch, Rancho del Cielo, in Santa Barbara, CA. Our adventure started with a very early morning train ride to Los Angeles to meet the rest of our party; Division 6 Commander, Wilson Lee, his wife, and we even picked up a Boy Scout named Everett along the way. (Actually, Everett is Mr. Lee’s neighbor, but maybe we’ll recruit him to join the Young Ma- rines!). When we arrived at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, we boarded an- other train to Santa Barbara where we had lunch hosted by members of the Young America’s Foundation. The Rea- gan Ranch Program is one of many spon- sored by the foundation. Their goal is to preserve the “Western White House” as a premier Presidential historic site. The Young America’s Foundation has so far saved the ranch and property from de- velopment. The featured speaker during lunch was Texas Supreme Court Judge Don Willett, followed by a welcome from Radio Host David Webb. We loaded into vans and proceeded up the windy, bumpy road to the ranch.I had a clear image in my mind and an expectation of grandeur. After all, Ronald Reagan was a famed Hollywood actor, a California Governor and a former President of the United States. Although the ranch totals over 600 acres, as we rounded the last corner and came out of the trees it opened up to reveal a modest, one bedroom house. It was joined by a smaller guest house with two rooms, one for the Presidential physi- cian and the other for his Mili- tary Attaché who was respon- sible for carrying the “Football”, the term given to the case carrying the nuclear launch codes. President Reagan was in office during the Cold War period with the Soviet Union. Above the house, there was a pris- tine tack room for saddles and riding gear, and a stable. A slightly larger room housed a tidy dis- play of tools and two ranch vehicles. A Secret Service out- post was positioned up a small rise to overlook the main house. Across the lawn from the house was a small pond dubbed “Lake Lucky”. A canoe rested next to the dock that Mr. Reagan built himself. It was in this same canoe that he pro- posed to Nancy Reagan, again, on their 25th wedding anniversary. The Santa Ynez Mountains, oak trees and endless green fields surrounded the house.The tall grass waved as the breeze blew across it. It was mesmerizing, 688 acres of land to roam, ride and explore. Ronald Reagan was also a rancher and a cowboy. He built and mended fences, cleared brush and remodeled the house. He loved long horseback rides and to accommodate him the U.S. Park Police trained the Secret Service to ride with him (in 1981 the first United States Mounted Secret Service graduated). Just outside the front door to the house was a stone patio. All of the rocks were found on the property and placed there by the President. Inside was a small liv- ing and dining area, casual and simply furnished. There was no heating sys- tem, just two fireplaces. He carved the Thanksgiving turkey on a small pool ta- ble.He had many books and a few Native American Items. The shower head was a Liberty Bell and I counted more than 17 guns mounted or displayed around the cozy home. A full-sized bed? Not for the Reagans, just two twin beds with the wrought iron headboards zip-tied together. Mr. Reagan was a tall man and his feet hung over the edge. His solution? Just put a stool at the base of his side of the bed. Although I have always been impressed by Ronald Reagan, this trip gave me a new appreciation for the man. Kind, humble, simple. It wasn’t about celebrity. At his heart,he was a husband and father who enjoyed a morning horse ride with his wife, a simple meal on the porch, and watching a ball game with the Secret Service. Back at Union Station while waiting for our train home, we stopped at Philippe’s, the iconic French Dip restaurant that has been open since 1908. A great end to a fantastic day. For more information and to take a virtual tour of Rancho del Cielo, please visit You will not be disappointed. North San Diego: A Visit to President Reagan’s Ranch 30 YOUNG MARINES ESPRIT Online