A coincidental alignment of a forest path, a summer wedding’s tipi, a Subaru, and a big motorcycle make for a convenient set of iconography that many associate with the American West.
Huge population growth in the American West led to a lot of new construction; I see the same thing in my remote area of Northern New York. Unlike up here, where storms and seasonal temperature cycles destroyed many of those structures after they were no longer useful, this partially inhabited area in Utah remains well-preserved.
Crossing the American West last winter, I was struck by the profound changes to the landscape affected by large-scale infrastructure programs. Rural electrification resulted in an expectation of electrical availability, and power lines now stretch to the horizon.
In much the same way, lines of Interstate highway curve off to the distance, twinned East and West streams.
Along Interstate 80, stretches of winter Wyoming are wide and barren like I wouldn’t have believed.
In a few stretches, mountains or wind farms crop up in the distance.
But it’s perhaps this image of an orange house, like something from a mid-twentieth-century landscape painting, that best captures the experience.
Transcontinental driving in the dead of winter is all about dodging storms—but no one’s perfect. In the emptiness of Western Nevada, with only an occasional RV/farm combo to keep us company, the edge of a major storm ran into the setting sun.
“Post-apocalyptic” was the general vibe. The landscape was so large as to be without scale; I couldn’t tell you the actual height of the hills in the distance.