The lonesome, crowded west.

I said goodbye to California yesterday. She was cool and gray when we got in the car, and then warm and sunny, and then we were in the Sierra Nevadas and closer to the sky. Last time I was up there, I was in love. Now I only want the things around me–the dog snoring in the backseat, the family supporting me, the sense of excitement building and things changing. We blasted past Reno, and beyond that was nothing.

Nevada is hot and dry–empty, red. Billboards for fireworks and strip clubs and casinos litter the interstate. Low buildings sit in the hazy distance, surrounded by fences and coiled barbed wire. A sign next to the pavement reads “Prison Area – Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers.”

We left this morning from Wendover, a strange little town on the the Nevada-Utah border. When we came in last night, the sinking sun contrasted weirdly with a dark cloud that blurred the horizon and then dumped rain on us for thirty seconds, before giving us three brilliant rainbows. This morning, I walked on the pavement of the motel–barefoot, in my pajamas–and breathed the dry, warm air.

Utah is like an alien landscape. The palate is strange–sea foam green, slate gray, white, pale peach. The earth is the color of cream, and people have arranged black rocks along Route 80 into shapes, words. A smiley face. “Jamie.” “Love.” White salt flats stretch away from us. We drove by a small lake with pink water, and speculated about the minerals that could have caused the color.

Wyoming is full of wide skies, strange beige buttes, and fat, voluptuous clouds. Tonight, we’re in Laramie. Tomorrow, we make our way to Nebraska. And on Sunday, we’ll be in Iowa.

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