“Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health” – Modesto motto as inscribed on the arch entering the city.

“Wealth is the state of well being and not money” – Vandana Shiva

I have already visited Sacramento, the northenmost tip of the San Joaquin valley and Bakersfield, the southernmost. So, I decided to check out the middle cities, Merced, Fresno and Modesto. Merced is like a small outpost town buried in time. Nothing here. I was excited to see Fresno coz its the fifth biggest city in California and they have a big university. It was a big dissapointment. The downtown is a decayed place, no mall, lots of gangsters, horsepoop on roads, no nightlife and generally short of life. Fresno is a big no. (Edit: Also heard from one festival goer that she checked out Fresno to see how university is like for her friend. Her verdict, there is nothing good in Fresno and probably her friend is just studying and nothing else.)

San Joaquin valley is supposed to be the food factory of the USA and of the world. Lots of orchards/groves. Saw a never ending caravan of trucks carrying tomatoes. In contrast to Fresno, Modesto was a pleasant surprise. The roads are clean, city layout is well zoned, not shabby downtown that looks promising, a couple of malls and more good sized strip malls. True to its name, Modesto’s modest suburban-like appeal makes it like a perfect place to raise a family. Too bad I did not see Modesto during the housing crash where it was hit the hardest and houses sold for less than 100K. Now its triple that amount. I love Modesto’s motto but the ‘Water’ element is intriguing. Its obvious they highlighted it being an agri-economy but maybe Water also stand for quenching those who are ‘nau-uhaw’. Lol.

So I proceeded to Oakdale which was a small suburb of Modesto and jumping point to Symbiosis music festival. Its a contrast of high end subdivisions and old town feel. I looked for a place to eat breakfast of omelette and bacon and was surprised that all cafes serve only soup and sandwich. The Oakdale sign says it is the “Cowboy Capital of the World”. I thought, what does that even mean? Does Texas and the Mid-west have a better claim? And why cowboys? Then I noticed several young blond cowboys in their cowboy get-up leisurely strolling in the streets and I thought perhaps this is what they mean about the “Cowboy Capital’ title. (Edit: I googled Oakdale’s basis to be Cowboy Capital and it is rooted on their 24 world titles in Rodeo. No other place comes close. They also have a Cowboy museum that I thought was just the typical museum when I passed by.)

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