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.
My favorite cities are those with borders artificially constrained by water (like San Francisco, Hong Kong, or Manhattan), usually leading to towering structures and high density. San Francisco’s situation was different for a long time; a subset of NIMBY residents (alongside an array of other economic factors) meant that this grid of smaller buildings persists, in spite of housing shortages and corresponding high housing prices. As this slowly changes and the city begins to warm to the idea of new development, this uniform grid of little buildings might someday shift.
Great expanses of Nevada’s winter landscape look smooth and round: rolling hills and puffy clouds.
Then the landscape tucks in around the Interstate, the chunky details are more apparent. That little fence in the foreground is thoroughly dwarfed by the not-so-distant towers of rock.
Another image from the flooded Bonneville Salt Flats.
Hiking in the hills of Picchetti Ranch in Cupertino, views over Stevens Creek Reservoir and the Bay beyond present a classic Californian landscape. Like a postcard from the mid-twentieth century, the little shape of a kayaking fisherman in the foreground (or the people fishing at the shoreline in the background) shows an ideal Saturday afternoon.
Contemplating a drive back across North America, I’m most looking forward to the West. The mildly populated areas (look at the tiny path in the distant center of the image) remind me of the best parts of Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns.
So flat are the Bonneville Salt Flats that, during the winter months, the region will be covered uniformly by only about one inch of water. This layer is so thin that it can’t support large waves and surface disturbances, resulting in almost perfect reflection of the far-off hills and clouds.