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.
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.
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.
Hundreds of miles apart from each other, I happened upon these two images of vehicles, paired with their owners, otherwise alone in an expanse of western America. On a clear day, the yellow pickup in the image below is almost lost in the brush.
By comparison, this Nevadan Jeep stands out amid the dusting of snow and descending clouds. Even its driver is farther away. The setting is so perfect that it might as well be a Wrangler advertisement.
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.