I, Ms. border-line socialist princess of the cosmopolitan coasts, had a thoroughly middle American, straight-edge Republican day. And all in the same amount of time it takes to drive to Malibu, that Streisand/Geffen vortex of the liberal elite. My good friend Shannon took me to her hometown, Thousand Oaks (T.O. in locals' lingo), a shiny, desert suburb about 30 miles up the 101-N. We stopped by her lovely grandma's flag lined neighborhood, had lunch at a family owned BBQ chain and tried on padded bras at Victoria's Secret. It was a suburban mom's dream and I couldn't have been better prepared with my neck brace and Vicodin prescription, thanks to a recent car accident.
Gated communities abound in the Calabassas/Thousand Oaks/Simi Valley area. So do man made lakes with little motor boats, strip malls fancied up with heart shaped shrubs and plaster statues and perfectly paved, almost empty roads, filled with regular looking people living seemingly normal, regular lives. The local schools have their lockers outside and everyone is friendly and casual. It was so fun and relaxing- the perfect area for our most relaxed President's shrine, grave, institute or whatever a Presidential library is exactly.
The Reagan Library sits on top of a rather ugly mountain in an under-developed part of Simi Valley. It is designed very much like a sprawling, wild west ranch and the view from the top of the mediocre mountain is sweeping and awe-inspiring, which I am trying to tie into some metaphor for America...nope can't do it. The Library includes a replica of the Oval office and there are jelly beans everywhere, including the gift shop (CAPITALISIM!). On the grounds are President Reagan's very impersonal grave, a really pretty piece of the Berlin wall, and a rose garden payed for by the Reagan's close friend, Merv Griffin (HOLLYWEIRD!).
A lot of the Library is under renovation right now in preparation for Regan's centennial in 2011. But there are two exhibits so cool that they made the $12.00 entrance fee more than worth it. One is a real Air Force One, retired in 2001, in a giant glass pavilion on the side of the mountain so that it looks like it is about to take off. It is smaller than you would think, shiny with beautiful blue accents and inside it is very dated, 80's chic. Very nice, elderly docents tell you little factoids about each section. Also in the pavilion there are limo's and tons of motorcycles, as well as a pub called "Ronald Reagan's" that for some historical fact that escapes me is an actual pub the Reagans visited in Ireland.
My favorite thing by far, and the perfect thing for any little girl tourist you need to entertain, is the insanely detailed dollhouse of the White House. The main house, the west wing and the east wing are all shown in minute, glorious detail...from the microphones in the press room to Bo Obama sniffing around the First Lady's dressing room. There are also re-creations of FDR's war room, Lincoln's Oval Office and a model of muti-culti workers chaotically building the White House while drinking ale and starting fires.
When we were still in T.O. Shanon took me to meet Wally, her old piano teacher who has a rustic old store behind a scrap yard off the main drag of the now posh Thousand Oaks. Wally, an old hippie from the mountains, greeted us warmly and told us how much things had changed. "When I moved here in the 60's, this road was nothing but dirt, and it was winding. It was beautiful up here, this was the wilderness, the desert, and it was so quiet. It was magic." Well, sometimes it still is.
Subjective coolness: A-
Directions to Library: Take 101-N to CA-23N. Take Olson Road exit. Keep right and merge onto Olson Road, continue on Madera. Turn left on Presidential Drive.
Price: Adult-$12.00, Seniors-$9.00, 11-17-$6.00, 11 and under-free. Free parking at site.