Ellen here. Giving Marilyn a week off from blogging and excited to share about our CTP Retreat to one of the most beautiful places on earth! Yep, I said it… ON EARTH!

October 21st was a day of recovery. It was an opportunity to rest our overused stomach and cheek muscles. We had been together as a team for the past three days and had laughed more than should be allowed. That’s how we seem to roll, this crazy CTP team of ours!

We spent three full days together – and I mean FULL! Within those three days we fit in 2 road trips, 2 excursions, eating, drinking, laughing, horseback riding, critter petting, bonding, eating, drinking, laughing, wine tasting, shopping, massages, eating, drinking, and laughing. Oh, and Howard and I did a little gambling, too!

It was our annual CTP company retreat and, since I was brand new to the team last year, I missed the opportunity to go, so you can bet that not only was I NOT going to miss this one, but I was going to do my best to be a part of the planning.

It just so happened that one of our suppliers offered us the opportunity to experience a fabulous getaway only two hours from the office AND it just happened to be located in my hometown! I was thrilled to share such a beautiful place with my team. On the afternoon of the 18th, we set off on our Santa Ynez Valley adventure to The Alisal Guest Ranch.

Alisal Guest Ranch

This beautiful ranch has remained unchanged since the 1940’s.

We packed into my Hyundai Sonata, replete with Evian and chocolate covered strawberries and began our journey north. Stopping to pick up Marilyn en route, we entertained ourselves by singing loudly to “Rocket Man,” “American Pie,” “Wild World” and every other ’70’s anthem the radio could muster up for us.

To break up the two-hour drive, we stopped at a zen, hippy spot right along the Santa Barbara coast called The Sacred Space in Summerland. We enjoyed herbal tea, serene sitting spaces, and a bit of chill, quiet time before we hit the road again. I suppose this was the yin to our road trip yang!

Sacred Space

Getting our Zen on!

As we pulled off the 101, taking the back way to The Alisal, I was immediately reminded why I love my hometown so much – what’s not to love? Rolling hills, oak trees, grazing cattle, serene pastures… a little slice of heaven just two hours north of Los Angeles!

The blissful moment quickly vanished as Gabriel exclaimed in a panicked state, “Oh my gosh, I have no cell phone reception!”

Oh dear, it’s going to be a long three days.

Alisal Guest Ranch sits on 13,500 acres of an original Spanish Land Grant and has operated as a working cattle ranch since the early 1800’s. It boasts 50 miles of riding trails, a 100-acre spring-fed lake, two 18-hole championship golf courses, tennis courts, pool, spa, western-themed accommodations, fine dining, and endless ways to unplug and unwind.

Alisal Guest Ranch

Natural beauty at every turn.

According to their website, The Alisal has consistently ranked at the top of the country’s resorts and has been a playground for a number of notable guests. Clark Gable married Lady Silvia in the Alisal’s old library, and a prominent Hollywood magazine featured a front-page story on Doris Day while on one of her regular visits to the Alisal. Not to mention the bevy of celebrities that call the Santa Ynez Valley home (Sylvester Stallone and Bo Derek to name a couple).

After the adjustment to being “in the sticks” with limited cell phone reception, the crew settled into the serene setting. Each of us enjoyed our own, personal cottage with fireplace and veranda, nestled amongst the stately Sycamore trees. Alisal actually means “grove of Sycamores!”

Alisal Guest Ranch

Our home away from home, complete with a kitty!

We gathered each morning and evening in The Ranch room dining room and enjoyed delicious gourmet meals and laughter together – usually requiring every ounce of self-control to keep our hearty laughter and silliness to a respectable (well, kind of) level. The food was fabulous, the wine divine, and the service unparalleled.

The 19th, our only full day, was one that we all decided would be packed to the brim: a 90-minute horseback ride, followed by wine tasting in Los Olivos, lunch under the trees, delicious gourmet cupcakes, shopping at a local artisan nursery (where we just happened to find the perfect birthday gift for Marilyn!), a massage at Little Rainbow Foot Spa, and a quick nap. We capped it off with a delightful dinner in The Ranch Room! What a day!

The team looking perky BEFORE 90 minutes in the saddle!

Los Olivos

Wine and gourmet cupcakes… does it really get much better?


All in a day’s work!

While Gabriel “threatened” to gamble at the Chumash Casino, it was only me and Howard who braved the casino floor, replete with electric scooters, garish carpet, smokey air, and loud, flashing slot machines. We were determined to get every drop out of our full day in the Santa Ynez Valley!

Alisal Guest Ranch

It probably looked the same to the ranchers in the 1800’s!

Alas, Friday came and it was time to leave our oak-studded oasis. We headed into the Danish town of Solvang for one last farewell which included a stop by the Fudge Kitchen and, of course, Solvang Bakery. I, all the while, pointing out landmarks from my youth… “and over there was the restaurant I worked at – we had a delicious Smorgasbord”… “and over there is where I went to high school”… “and that’s the driveway to my childhood home.” They laughed uproariously at the childhood stories of their teammate-turned-tour-guide.


Anything can happen in Solvang!

As we did on the way up, we broke up the drive with a stop at Santa Claus Lane (I always wondered how a street in Southern California got that name!), just north of Carpinteria, right along the coast. We savored our last meal together in a beautiful garden setting overlooking the beach. While most would be anxious to get home and away from their colleagues, it seemed to me that we just didn’t want our time together to end. I think we all realized how special it is to work with people whose company you sincerely enjoy!


Best team EVER!