East Bay-trip offers stunning scenery, closeups of Mount Diablo and the Blackhawk Auto Museum!







With a bit of rain recently settling the dust in the Easy Bay hills and helping clear the air – it’s a marvelous time for doing creative family exploring between Stockton and the East Bay area.

Part of the fun of such a trip is to take the scenic backroads to Mt. Diablo, then the back toute into Danville and Blackhawk. Follow the directions below and you’ll discover possibly the prettiest – as well as the shortest route – to the East Bay.

One of the gems of this trip is Danville’s Blackhawk development and the wonderful Blackhawk Automotive (and American History) Museum. One huge floor displays 60 classic and concept autos from Europe and the US, the floor above offers a panoply of Native American and early Western history.

On a recent visit, we saw a bevy of seniors taking in the exhibits of cars on one floor and history above. Kids of all ages were enthralled by Native American and Western history exhibits on the second floor – a perfect place for youngsters to appreciate the challenges of the wild West to those who went before us. 

The museum anchors Blackhawk Plaza, with nine varied restaurants within a two block walk as well as upscale retailers galore. It’s collection offers American cars from a 1903 Ford Model A to 1954 Dodge and Plymouth concept cars to The 1967 Mirage-Ford M1. The 1903 Ford Model A on display, Ford’s 300th car built, weighed 1200 pounds, sported a whopping 8 hp and cost $850.

A stately 1933 mint green Packard Super 8 was superbly built, weighed well over 5000 pounds, powered by 145 horsepower and cost $3100 – a princely sum at that time.

Beautiful 1954 Dodge and Plymouth concept cars, such as the Dodge Firearrow II, showed the creative energy of American engineering just nine years after WW II. A 1963 Ford Thunderbird concept car, designed in Italy, shows the influence on US-built cars on designers from other countries.

But it’s the foreign-built autos that literally blow your mind. From massive autos by Rolls Royce, Mercedes and Jaguar, you’ll come to appreciate the heights of the auto industry in the 1920s to the onset of World War II.

Alpha Romeo certainly set the tone for avant-garde, aerodynamic styling in the 1950s. One example, the 1953 Alpha Romeo Bertone BAT 7, offers the most stylish, exaggerated rear fins you can possibly imagine. Those over-the-top fins (in lesser proportions) appeared on most American cars in the late 50s to early 60s.

Other foreign autos stop you in your tracks. A 1939 Aero Model 50 from the Czech Republic is no less amazing then the nearby 1939 SS 100 Jaguar from England. A massive 1947 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith seems even larger than its neighbors in size, sporting every manner of luxurious appointments!

The second-floor traces the history of our Native American forebears and how many tribes prospered as they adapted to the seasonal climate and realities of rugged, nomadic lifestyles across the continent. But, one cannot scan the Native American artifacts or the life-size dioramas, or stare at the portrait of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, without feeling regrets for the way they were treated as white settlers used the doctrine of “manifest destiny” to take over their territory in the last 200 years.

One display shows how the inexorable march of settlers from the original colonies in the 1790s; settling all the US to the west coast by 1890 and banishing Native Americans to reservations. They were forcibly resettled on properties that white settlers did not want.

The other half of the huge second-floor shows the challenges and perils of the migration of pioneers who pushed across the country. A huge Conestoga wagon, harnessed to a team of oxen, seems ready to embark on the Mormon Emigrant or Oregon Trails which poured thousands into California and Oregon in the last half of the 19th century.

The trip from Stockton to Blackhawk is half the fun; you’ll first cross about 15 miles of our scenic Delta and be amazed by the Delta’s agricultural bounty. Then the road meanders through the beautiful foothills leading to Mt. Diablo.

Headed towards Mt. Diablo, you pass stellar attractions including Los Vaqueros Reservoir, Round Valley Regional Park and Preserve, and have the option to climb Mt. Diablo for some of the best views in northern California!

Los Vaqueros Reservoir is a new reservoir and watershed; the pretty lake was recently increased to 160,000 acre-feet by raising the damn 35 feet and holds water from the Delta for Eastbay residents. The impoundment is regularly stocked with fish – it’s both a fishing and bicycling Mecca; offering trails into the hills surrounding the reservoir.

Next up on your scenic drive is Round Valley Regional Park and Reserve, with trails that can take you deep into the East Bay foothills. Scenic hiking and biking galore; no dogs allowed.

Just a few miles east of Mt. Diablo, turn left/south on Morgan Territory Road!  You’ll be treated to one of the most scenic stretches of highway in Northern California. The road, initially two lane, is paved but soon becomes a 6 mile stretch of single lane taking you over the southeast flank of Mount Diablo, through stunning scenery much as Native Americans would’ve beheld it hundreds of years earlier.

How to get there: Head west from Stockton on Hwy. 4; just past Discovery Bay, turn left on the Byron Hwy., at Byron, go west on Camino Diablo, which connects to Marsh Creek Canyon Road. Turn left on Morgan Territory Road, right on Manning Road, right on Carneal Road, left on Highland Road, then right on Camino Tassajara to reach Blackhawk Plaza. Take a good map or GPS!

For more information:  Blackhawk Automotive Museum, 3700 Blackhawk Plaza Cir., Danville, CA. Phone 925.736.2280; www.BlackhawkMuseum.org. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 AM to 5 PM, $15 adults, $10 seniors/students, kids under six and military free. Mt. Diablo State Park: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=517. Modest entry fees are charged for Los Vaqueros Reservoir and Preserve and Mount Diablo State Park. Round Valley Regional Park is free.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.  Happy travels in the West!

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