The second day of our California tour started off with a stop in Chico and ended up in Modesto. We continue to see interesting landscapes, meet fascinating people and experience the romanticism that draws so many people to this state. I'm not sure as I've adjusted to the life of a traveling evangelist, but I am continually humbled and inspired by the efforts people are going through to hear this message first hand. We had one group that drove today that drove two and a half hours! Amazing.
Let me start off talking about Chico, which was really a stop of personal indulgence for me as I wanted to connect with some good friends of mine, John Anderson and Will Dowdy. I met John first online and then had a chance to get to know him at the New Urbanism Summit last October in Montgomery. He has become not just a good friend but a professional mentor. His colleague at Anderson|Kim, Will Dowdy, is a CNU NextGen compadre and someone I have found to be deeply insightful on many things. And both of these guys have a great sense of humor -- or at least, they share my sense of humor.
John and Will gave us a tour of Chico which, especially when compared to the other places we've experienced on this trip, was fantastic. I am going to do multiple posts on Chico beyond this travel log because there was a lot to take in that I really need to share. I saw the Chico Esplanade, a fantastic boulevard that presents one of the best urban transportation designs I have experienced in this country. As an arterial, the Esplanade can be contrasted with an arterial a few blocks over, which unfortunately is your standard STROAD. I can't wait to dig into the numbers on these because, from a design and livability standpoint, there is no comparison. I suspect the finances will fall that way as well. And since the Esplanade moves more cars than the STROAD, it makes an amazing case study. Stay tuned.
We also got a tour of a development that Anderson|Kim has put together. It was amazing eye candy. The architecture was beautiful, the use of space was brilliant and there were so many innovative elements it was hard to take it all in. It was a sharp contrast to the standard suburban development that is ubiquitous through California. I was inspired. Pictures to come soon; you will be inspired too.
After leaving Chico, we headed for nearby Modesto. I spoke to a good crowd at the Valley Futures Forum, an event set up by our friends Cindy Van Emple and George Osner. It was well attended and, besides one guy who slept the entire time (something that, as a speaker, is more amusing than insulting), the group was really into the conversation. It was a more intimate setting than Redding and so I could read the faces well and, because of that, got a little long winded. Justin warned me to be a little more efficient, but I don't think the Modesto crowd minded.
I enjoyed Modesto and saw a lot of active, viable places and neighborhoods that are configured to succeed. Sure, they had the crazy stuff on the periphery, but the core seemed solid and quite redeemable. We had the opportunity to sample the food scene and I enjoyed an amazing chicken cordon blue with some great conversation. We had a visitor from San Francisco (again, I'm so humbled by people traveling so far to be part of this) and now are planning a follow up tour that will likely start there.
We settled in for a great evening conversation and then a great night of sleep at the home of George and Elise Osner. What generous and fascinating people. George, who is widely followed on Twitter at @gosner, was an early promoter of our work; one of the first to find us and start spreading the Strong Towns message. And he didn't just retweet our headlines -- he read our blog posts and then would summarize them better than we did ourselves, picking out the insights I wasn't even identifying. I owe him a lot for that as he has really helped us refine our message.
And Elise was so generous with my continuous, and somewhat ignorant, questioning on hot air ballooning (her hobby), homeopathy (her profession) and travels around the country. What a sweetheart. We feel so lucky to have been treated so kindly by so many people.
Friday is in Rancho Cordova and then a long trip to Anaheim. Will try to post an update on that really soon.