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Fran’s Favorites: A visit to Reagan Ranch

The DeWine's at the Reagan Ranch

Last weekend Mike and I attended the Super Bowl in California with some of our family. It was a great game to watch, despite the last minute or two. We are so proud of the Bengals and we are very excited about next year!

Like most Ohioans, we have really missed having family time together for the last couple of years. We enjoyed this time to gather and celebrate our great season and impressive team. While we were there, we visited many of the tourist attractions since it was our grandchildren’s first time in California. We visited Hollywood and saw the stars in the sidewalk. We toured Paramount Studios. We drove by Long Beach Port and saw the incredible back-up of shipping containers. We had chili dogs at Pink’s, a famous Los Angeles hot dog stand. (They were upside-down, with the cheese on the bottom — and in my opinion, not as good Skyline Chili coneys!)

Our most memorable stop was visiting Reagan Ranch. We drove north along the Pacific to Santa Barbara, stopping briefly at a couple of beaches along the way to put our feet in the ocean and watch the surfers. We arrived at the museum and at the entrance was a 5-foot-wide section of the Berlin Wall — along with a video of President Reagan’s speech when he said: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!” Then we loaded the family into the vans and headed up to the Western White House — Rancho Del Cielo.

The ride up the mountain was truly spectacular! We wound through the mountains, through forests that had been burned in a fire in October, with some of the larger blackened trees sprouting new growth. The vistas alternated between amazing mountain views and spectacular views of the ocean. Then we reached the ranch. We had our picture taken under the gate and walked to the small white adobe cottage with the red tile roof that was built about 100 years before the Reagans bought it in 1974. The home was simply furnished with books and artwork and all things he and Nancy truly loved. The kitchen had the harvest gold appliances that I grew up with. I loved going into the garage and workshop and seeing chainsaws and axes and all the peanut butter jars filled with screws and nails, just the way my dad had his workshop organized. We saw the beautiful saddles hanging in the tack room, seemingly ready for the President to saddle up his favorite horse for a ride on the trails. While the horses are gone, we did get to take a ride in his old Humvee. As we rode around the trails, we saw all the fences the President made himself from telephone poles. We saw the flowers that Nancy planted where the helipad once was. We continued to enjoy more beautiful vistas of the valley.

The home looks as it did the day the Reagans left, with even their ranch clothes in the closet. The whole ranch made you appreciate the president’s love of physical work, and his simplicity of spirit. For all of us on the tour, it was an inspiration. Reagan was president when we went to Congress, so it was a great honor for us to share this insight into the president with our children and grandchildren. As we celebrate this Presidents’ Day weekend, we think of him and all our presidents. And we’ll make some of his favorite, and simple, macaroni and cheese to celebrate!

President Reagan’s Favorite Macaroni and Cheese

Boil in water and drain:

1/2 pound macaroni

Stir in:

1 Tablespoon butter

1 egg, beaten

3 cups grated sharp cheese (reserve 1/2 cup for top)

Put in buttered casserole.

Mix together:

1 teaspoon dry mustard, dissolved in 1 Tablespoon hot water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

Pour milk mixture over macaroni. Sprinkle with reserved cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until custard is set.