The automobile museum at Blackhawk Plaza, near Danville California, turned out to be a dramatic and fun place to spend a Sunday. This isn't just your caption basic automobile collection: the vehicles have been collected with careful attention to their history and special qualities, and have been restored and polished till they appear as artworks. All of the vehicles have been exhibited in various Concourses d'Elegance; many have won national first prizes. Their building is exceptional as well, an imposing, graceful stone building with sweeping staircases, large galleries and a lovely plaza (no wonder it is a popular site for weddings and other special events). The shopping plaza and museum, in a town where homes start at seven figures, were developed by the museum's founder, who has taken pains to make this an attractive place to wander as well, with fountains, fish, and a variety of upscale shops.

The museum has two floors, and the cars are fabulous -- at least half a dozen Bugattis, plenty of Duesenbergs, Daimlers, Hispano Suizas -- you name it. We each had our favorite autos, from the dashing scarlet Cadillac roadster custom-made for a playboy in Montreux, Switzerland, to a touring car once caption owned by an Indian maharajah (complete with cobra head fender decorations and seats for servants on each running board), to Fatty Arbuckle's Pierce Arrow. It was lots of fun.

We must give a recommendation for one of the best-kept secrets of staying near The City: Studio Plus in Alameda, near the Oakland Airport, is economical, providing large L-shaped rooms with a full kitchen for lots less money than anything comparable in San Francisco. It's close to the San Francisco ferry, a short drive from Oakland BART and Jack London Square, and located in a business park which is neat and quiet. Best of all, on most days a short walk takes you to the water's edge for a clear view of San Francisco across the bay.

January 28th we bundled Cousin Marilyn into the truck and continued our California tour, spending the morning winding our way through San Francisco (the truck handled twisty Lombard Street surprisingly well) and lunching at the upstairs dining room at Cliff House. The 49-mile scenic drive is well marked caption and great for sightseeing, and we followed it until we headed south from Golden Gate Park.

Our next destination was Monterey and Carmel. Since our last visit to the Monterey Aquarium they have added a Save the Seahorses exhibit. They are astonishing creatures.

The astonishing creatures in Carmel, by contrast, are mostly to be found in the dozens of art galleries and boutiques -- far too many to be visited in one trip!

We couldn't show Marilyn the beauties of the 17-mile drive, as we were preempted by the AT&T Pro-Am tournament at Pebble Beach, Tiger Woods and all.

With the combination of natural beauty and inventive human creations, we felt we were beginning to provide an idea of what makes California so inviting and fascinating. And we were still not finished with our tour.

To be continued.....