Ever since I first heard that Air Force One was being retired and put out to pasture at the Reagan Library and Museum, I have wanted to make a return visit. My opportunity came yesterday when my ITMI (International Tour Management Institute) SoCal Network chose the site for our October outing.
The last (and second) time I visited was several years ago. Since then the museum has been completely overhauled and expanded. The only other presidential library I have visited is that of Richard Nixon. The two facilities are very different in layout and approach and I like each of them for their own merits. I would love to see some other presidential libraries, particularly the one in Arkansas! I spent a considerable amount of time in that state at one point in my life, and it would be a good excuse to go back.
The Ronald Reagan Library and Museum is located in Simi Valley, Ventura County, just north of Los Angeles. The grounds are on a hilltop with sweeping views of the surrounding countryside. Since my last visit the pristine hillsides have become somewhat cluttered with pockets of homes in every direction. But for the time being there is still plenty of space for the eye to wander.
Inside, the galleries are a living history book, giving the visitor an “up close and personal” look at the life and times of the former head of state. Regardless of your political leanings, it would be difficult to come away not being impressed by all his achievements as a radio announcer, movie star, governor and president.
I am currently reading Bill Clinton’s autobiography, My Life. From a very young age he was a go-getter, just like Reagan and Nixon too. There is something inherently special about people who rise to this level of government. I am sure the same can be said of Fidel Castro, Winston Churchill, Mao Tse-Tung or any other world leader you may love or hate. They are fascinating personalities.
Perhaps the highlight of the day for me was, as I have alluded to, being able to see inside (although not take photos of) Air Force One. This plane served seven U.S Presidents from 1973 to 2001, including Nixon, Carter, Ford, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush. That makes for one giant power vortex inside that small space!
There are interactive displays popular with the kids. And for the kid in you, a photo-op riding on horseback with Mr. Reagan out on the ranch.
Including a short stop for lunch in the café or a coffee outside on the terrace, you can easily spend four or five hours hanging out in the museum with time for the gift shop. It goes without saying I had to buy a refrigerator magnet although I was disappointed with the rather bland choices. It’s hard to top the “Nixon meets the King” magnet I purchased at that other guy’s library, but a “Ronnie meets Maggie” magnet would have been a winner for me (just send me my percentage for the suggestion).
(All photos copyright roslyn m wilkins)