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Nearing Bakersfield, visitors can see traces of California’s secondgold rush: rusted rigs on the roadside cover Southern California’s vast oil fields. 'Black gold' was found here in the late 19th century, and Kern County still pumps more than a few OPEC nations.

This is the setting for Upton Sinclair’s Oil! (which was adapted into the 2007 film There Will Be Blood). In the '30s the promise of oil attracted a stream of ‘Okies’ – farmers who migrated out of the Dust Bowl – to work the pumps. The children of these pioneers put the 'western' in country western by creating the ‘Bakersfield Sound', with heroes Buck Owens and Merle Haggard defiantly disregarding the larger Nashville establishment.

Bakersfield is making efforts to be more like its fancy neighbors, but downtown still holds surprises in its funky mix of restored buildings and newer restaurants, theaters and bars.

Very Walkable
Some Transit
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