The American West

Last week, I drove some 2,000 miles around the south west. I dashed through las Vegas, Zion National Park, and Yosemite. It was a whirlwind tour, cut short by heavy snows in Utah.

Of the whole trip, the most impressive part was central Nevada, since it most defied my expectations and drove home a few points:

  • We have an enormous amount of open space. In all my travels, even in the most remote corners of the Himalayas, I saw nothing like central Nevada–vast swathes of terrain utterly devoid of humans, populated by a few itinerant cows.
  • Despite this vastness of space, we have amazing infrastructure here. I was driving across smooth and well-maintained highways…and Iw as the only car within a hundred miles, at times. Every now and then I’d pass massive reservoirs tucked into the hills, or isolated towns that, despite their isolation, were well served with cell-phone towers, paved streets, and electricity.
  • I can understand how people who live in these vast and isolated spaces feel independent. The government–even state governments–are far away. There were few signs of law enforcement, and I suspect regulations are enforced erratically, at best. And growing up in these vast spaces would likely mean limited schooling, limited jobs, and limited cultural exposure, so the people in the cities and the government truly are a different folk. But …
  • I think the sense of detachment is a facade. Who builds the roads or supplies the electricity? Where are the beef consumers? Where are the passing truckers heading? Maintaining modern life and an economy in these remote corners is hard. The facilitator is, of course, the government. The rugged and legendary Western independence strikes me as mythology, instead of reality.

Some other photographs:

 

Miles

I’m a senior product manager for OpenTable’s consumer products. I focus on major features, including our loyalty program, diner profiles, social integrations, and new business exploration.