The American Intermountain West – Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada – are some of the least populated areas of the country once you get out of the major cities. It’s “flyover” country to most folks traveling, and the land is both harsh and beautiful at the same time. The distances are vast and the empty space is sometimes incomprehensible.
A lot of this hit home as I was driving from Boise to Salt Lake City yesterday. It’s about a six hour drive, and much of it is through the high desert of Southern Idaho and Northern Utah. Sealed in the Hummer I'm not part of the land and part of the road as I am on the motorcycle. The Interstate bypasses even the smaller cities like Twin Falls, and one drives for hours through an empty land, with the other folks on the road as the only company. It's just me, the Hummerbear, the Zac Brown Band on the CD player and lonely trucker along I-84.
I love the vast distances and sparse lands – the scattered farm and ranch buildings, the abandoned buildings, and the miles of open spaces. At times it feels like one is driving through a post apocalyptic land, past old WW II surplus quonset huts, or rusty mobile homes and broken down tractors. It feels almost pre-set for the filming of a horror movie or sci-fi flick.
Abandoned buildings are always intriguing to me – there is a “story” here. Someone put them here for a reason, they succeeded for a while, but then something happened and it all changed. People lived, laughed, worked, loved and played here. People were born, people died, and the only sign left is what we left behind – a sign advertising a restaurant that isn’t here anymore, presiding over a tumbleweed covered lot that sparkles with bits of broken glass in the winter gray. It reminds us that some things never last, but that the highway goes on forever.
Or an abandoned Tavern with a rusting stove on its front porch, and a sign in the window saying “No dogs or snakes”.
The West is full of things like this – along the Interstates and the side roads. Evidence of life lived in the past.
The winter sun sets early and the snow sparkles. The road is lightly traveled here, the Interstate empty. The occasional town with a gas station and a small diner serving the neighboring ranches every 60 miles or so break up the loneliness of the highway. People pause, get fuel for themselves and their cars, maybe chat with the cashier and hit the road again.
The driver heads back over the Interstate and joins the flow along the artery that is the highway and off into the incomprehensible vastness that is the American West.