Blackhawk Museums, Danville, California

We returned from our fall 2019 adventures a week before turkey day, faced with a whirlwind of activity. As soon as we finished cleaning out the fifth wheel and sorting the mail, preparations for Thanksgiving dinner captured our attention as did the day itself with family and friends. Without a breather, we rolled into the Christmas and New Year season by decorating the house, making lists, shopping for gifts, and planning another dinner.

We never make plans to celebrate our anniversary, which falls three days after Christmas. This year, however, we thought we at least deserved to spend a day together to celebrate our 45th year. We started with breakfast at Nonni’s Bistro in downtown Pleasanton, California. Breakfast at Nonni’s is like having breakfast at a quaint bed and breakfast establishment. Then we were off to Blackhawk Plaza and the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California.

Behring Foundation wing of the museum

The museum began in 1988 when real estate developer Ken Behring (1928 – 2019) and car collector Don Williams joined forces to showcase classic automobiles in a newly established museum. The auto gallery rotates its inventory to attract visitors throughout the year.

No matter the age or type of vehicle on display, the one commonality they all possess is that they are rare and unique models. One of the earliest cars on display was the Stanley Steamer (a term I thought came from the carpet cleaners).

1902 Stanley Steamer Stick Seat Runabout

This Lamborghini, one of only 40 built, represented the newer models.

2017 Lamborghini Centenario

Jon rushed up to an “Evening Orchid” painted 1965 Chevrolet Impala S/S. “Hey, my dad owned one of these that he called the purple people eater.” I could see his father behind the wheel, wearing a golf outfit to match. He loved bright colors, be they yellow, green, blue, or pink.

1965 Chevrolet Impala SS Sport Coupe with Evening Orchid paint

The holiday fairy lights hanging from the ceiling made it difficult to capture the brilliance and shine of the paint jobs. Occasionally, I found the right angle even if it meant catching the subject in a reflection.

1955 Desoto Fireflight convertible in reflection

This 1950 Monarch (Mercury) “Woody” Station Wagon reminds me of warm summer days, beach towels on the sand, the smell of suntan oil, the crash of waves, and surfers bobbing in the water on the horizon waiting to catch the big one.

Surfs Up

I’ve always been partial to panel trucks and the whimsy of this one caught my eye. It brought back memories of the Helm’s Bakery trucks that cruised our neighborhood in the 1960s and the fresh-baked bread and donuts the driver sold. The crullers with chocolate icing on top were my favorite.

Chevrolet panel or delivery truck

The museum also contains The Spirit of the Old West, a permanent collection of 19th-century North American artifacts of Native Americans and the European expansion of North America in the 1800s.

Howdy pardner. Come on in.

One side of the exhibit tells the story of how Americans “won” the land.

While the opposite side tells the story of how the Native Americans “lost” the land.

Displays include the early years when mountain men explored the territories.

Buffalo-hide coat

Contributions of women during 19th-century California are honored.

Women who shaped California

The Chinese labor force that brought us the Transcontinental Railroad is recognized.

How the railroad hastened the westward expansion

Even a life-sized wagon and oxen are on display.

Imagine walking alongside these beasts

Paintings and artifacts are used to present the Native American side of the story.

Trail of Broken Dreams by Don Oelze
Knife and holder
Replica of a rowboat built in a circle
Native American baskets

A large diorama also tells the stories of the early west. Information panels and audio explain further the objects displayed in the diorama.

How the west was won and lost diorama

Temporary installations occupy additional exhibit halls in the building. We found carvings, masks, paintings, and other art objects dominated the Art of Africa exhibit.

African musical instruments and sculptures
Masks of Africa
Majestic
Maasai Girl

On display in the Western exhibit were various types of memorabilia.

Ride ’em cowboy.
Gene Autry suit and boots. Note the boots on the pocket-handkerchief
Monty Montana costumes
Paintings of horsewomen

Outside in the Blackhawk Plaza, a walkway passes by stores and several restaurants as it meanders through landscaping, beside a creek and water features, and crosses over bridges.

Blackhawk Plaza

Whimsical sculptures near the playground stand to prompt us all to “Imagine.” The plaque below details the meaning of the sculptures.

Sculpture plaque
Girl riding swan
Grandpa reading to girl with museum building in the background
Up, up, and away

We sat and watched a raft of ducks playing in the pond. This duck entertained us for about a half-hour as it bobbed for something at the bottom.

Bobbing for dinner

There’s nothing like a respite from the hustle and bustle of the holidays to remind us that even in our little corner of the world there are places to see and explore.

Itchy feet, however, had us packing up the trailer again on January 24, 2020, for a bit of winter travel in the southern part of California. Our next post will feature the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California.

Until then, safe travels.