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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Touring the Biscuit’s Home

When I was in Tennessee last May, the last place I wanted to see was Graceland. Oh, I know loads of people crave a visit to the home of the so-called King of Rock n’ Roll, but it wasn’t my cup o’ tea. But... you know, sometimes a King just demands his due. So today my friend Diane and I visited the home of a Superstar of yore – Seabiscuit!

Seabiscuit aka 'The Biscuit', the 4-legged Superstar!

The morning walking tour took place at Ridgewood Ranch, that turned out to be just along side of HWY 101 – which leads north to the Avenue of the Giants. I’ve driven past the ranch without knowing it at least a half b’jillion times. From now on I’ll know to nod respectfully as I zip pastthe Ranch on my way to Crescent City. Now for some Biscuit History.

The Biscuit kicking arse at Santa Anita

The Ridgewood Ranch is currently owned by a religious sect that is working hard to restore the ranch and its buildings to its former glory. In the Biscuit’s day the ranch was 16,000 acres, but now the ranch is down to 5,000 acres. I’m hoping the National Park System buys into the original 16K acres and makes it a National Historic Site. Hey, it’s the least we can do for the Biscuit, a horse that kept up America's spirit during the Depression years leading up to WWII.

The biscuit tour starts in a large dining room, which is decorated with loads of Biscuit memorabilia.

The Howard's Racing colors along with typical eensie racing saddle

Diane reading some of the multitude of
scrapbooks of Ridgewood Ranch in its prime

After everyone’s had a good look around, the tour starts with a 15 minute ‘home movie’ filmed by one of the Howards, the family that owned Seabiscuit. Then the walking tour begins. The tour was lead by Tracy Livingstone, whose the enthusiast behind the scenes - he collected all the photos and such. He has also 'rescued' loads of Biscuit artifacts, many shown below.

Tour leader Tracy Livingstone, who lives on the Ranch

Of course the tour began with a look at Seabiscuit himself – this statue just a tad smaller than Seabiscuit in life.

Seabiscuit's Statue - one of three made in his likeness

The pedestal says it all… I got all choked up
on the first bit of the tour

Next we toured the original Howard’s Home, which was in place when the Howard’s bought the Ranch. Loads to see but I’ll cut to the bits that interested me. If you want to see more you’ll just have to go there for yourself.

Hearth inside the Howard's home

I was tickled to see the center fireplace mantle is an homage to the last Elsie Allen, a now world famous Pomo basket weaver. Elsie was influential in reviving California Indian basket weaving.

Elsie Allan - another legend connected to the ranch

At the base of the fireplace is ‘The Last Rut’. The ranch has Fallow Deer herds – a gift to the Howards from the Hearst Castle folks. A pair of rutting Fallow stags got barbed wire tangled in their antlers and... uh… it didn’t go to well for them.

The Last Rut

The carriage house, which in it’s day was stuffed to the rafters with shiny new Buicks (Mr. Howard ran the Buick Company) isn’t renovated yet, but word up is PBS's This Old House may be interested in doing the honors.

100 yr old Carriage House

Side of carriage house - even the old rose arbor is 100 yrs old

In its day, the Howard’s ranch was host to the likes of Bing Crosby, Clark Gable, Carol Lombard and loads of other 40s movie stars. We saw the pool with its mens & ladies bath houses, where it is rumored Shirley Temple learned to swim.

I saved most of my enthusiasm though for Seabiscuit’s Barn – renovated with the help of the local Willet’s Rotary Club. Go BISCUIT!

Seabiscuit's Barn

Seabiscuit’s barn is awesome! It has four corner stalls all shined up for four of Ridgewood’s primo racing stallions. There was a room for the horse handlers to sleep and of course storage and tack rooms. The only thing the place is currently missing is that lovely scent of hay and horses.

Happy at the Biscuit's Stall

The Biscuit's personal private pasture back-in-the-day – the paddocks are gone

Next we were off to visit the Mare’s Barn

Mare's barn isn’t renovated yet

The stall doors all bear the Howard's Ranch racing emblem. The two color motif was adopted out of respect for Seabiscuit when the great horse died at the age of 14. The great horse had an oversized heart and lungs, which is probably how he could run so hard and had such stamina. The over-sized organs may well have lead to his death at such a relatively young age. Pampered horses can reach the age of 25 and more.

breezeways keep the Mare's barn cool, even on a hot day like our tour day

Our last visit on the tour was to see the few horses that remain on the ranch.

This chestnut filly is a real princess, carrying the blood of
Man O' War, War Admiral, Seabiscuit and Secretariat

Weather Vane on the Biscuit's Barn

I've only relayed perhaps 5% of what I learned of Ridgewood Ranch's history or Seabiscuit. And as for showing all the pictures I took? Don't get me started. And the day was only half over. We still had the Grace Hudson Museum and Sun House to tour back in Ukiah. I'm tired just thinking on it!

1 comment:

  1. Hey, Claire the only thing missing was us riding out into the sunset--with the Lone Ranger, perhaps? :)