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.
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.
Look at this big hill and tiny fence. Though not its original purpose, I like to imagine that fence as an attempt to hold back the advance of the hill.
In the emptiness of Wyoming, big structures along the interstate are rare. When the temperatures are ultracold and the factory is emitting tons of vapor, that brings up a new level of interest.
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.
During last winter’s road trip from New York to California, we were struck by the sheer scale of the American West: one step off the Interstate drops you into an enormous expanse. At the edge of Wyoming’s Black Hills, there’s a Bob-Ross-ian grandeur to enjoy.
Across the frozen expanse of Wyoming in December, signs of life and industry have the strange look of an off-world colony. If not for the tiny building in the foreground, the image would be totally devoid of reasonable features at human scale.