Cowpoke by day, aristocrat at night at Alisal Guest Ranch in Solvang

Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort in the Santa Ynez Valley is deliberately old-fashioned — no TVs or phones in the rooms — and promotes its outdoorsy activities in an elegantly rustic setting.

While my husband played golf, there was plenty of local history for me to explore in Solvang at the Elverhoj Museum and at Old Mission Santa Inés, as well as ranch-hills hiking and kayaking. Our five-person suite (sorry, kids, we forgot to invite you) had two bathrooms, a sitting room with a fireplace and two day beds.

The Alisal Guest Ranch feeds its guests well — two or three times a day, depending on the package. The steaks were superb, but so were the nightly specials. We dined at an assigned table, suitably attired for dinner (jackets for men, dressy outfits for women). Just like a cruise ship.

Road trips: where to go and what to know

Naturally, Alisal (cattle ranching since the 1800s and hosting guests since the 1940s) is full of livestock. It took me some time to work up my courage, but a friendly wrangler got me astride Wilbur, a patient older horse that carried me slowly through the rolling landscape dotted with lichen-draped oaks and sycamores to the top of T-Bone Ridge.

As I surveyed the never-developed hills, interrupted only by the distant flat spot of a presidential helipad (the ranch and Ronald Reagan were neighbors back in the day), I imagined the original Chumash inhabitants or the later Mexican land-grant owners walking along this same too-narrow-for-a-truck path.

Miles one way from downtown L.A.

About 155


Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort,; Elverhoj Museum,; Old Mission Santa Inés,

Have an incredible road trip story or a useful tip? Share your memories and suggestions with us in the comments.

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June 20, 2016, 7:35 a.m.: This article has been updated throughout.

This article was originally published March 4, 2016 at 7:15 a.m.