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I’m a California-based voice & visual artist. I immerse myself in creative adventure by exploring multiple genres, styles, and forms in my writing and art. I also make short films. ❤️robots.

Winter Road Tripping -- Photos on the Go!

We had just passed the Interstate 55 exit and were headed west on I-80. My throat felt odd like I was in rush hour traffic, but we were west of Chicago, and traffic was light. A thick wedge of smoke spiraled into the overcast sky in the distance. My first thought was fire, but no, it was some kind of energy plant spewing toxins into the air. The Minooka Combined Cycle Power Plant uses natural gas. Well, we do need energy. I clicked off some blurry shots. At the time, I didn't think this precedent would influence most of my photographic choices during the cross-country drive, but it did. We traveled across what seemed like empty land populated with lonely shipping centers and twisted metal giants in charge of manufacturing or refining something. (That's from an interstate highway perspective. Off the interstate, the Midwest is known for hospitality and home-style cooking.)

This unexpected dash of pollution caused me to wonder…what does it take to be us? What is the cost of our modern life to air, land, water, as well as human and animal welfare? We all need a way to contribute—to make a living—and in general, we the masses benefit from those products developed or shipped from these “barren” stretches. Kind of how you'd imagine a mining operation on the Moon most of us don't ponder manufacturing locations.

My trip expectations were of long stretches of picturesque countryside devoid of human constructions creating mental space for reflection. We encountered that too, but this post will only cover the metal giants rising out of the ground, and not all were what they seemed.

Winter road tripping can chill the toes even with the heater on full blast. Yes, many times during the drive we commented on how appreciative we were to live in the twenty-first century and have a well-maintained vehicle to ride in on the journey. For some reason, I compare trips to the Donner Party's covered wagons going from Springfield, Illinois to Sutter's Fort, California in1846-47. For us going across the country only took three days, two nights, with no detours or cannibalism.

Patriot Renewable Fuels ethanol plant in Annawan, IL

HollyFrontier's Cheyenne Refinery in Wyoming for crude oil

Foote Creek I Wind Project west of Arlington, Wyoming

"Turbines can generate power at wind speeds of 8 to 65 mph."--EWEB
Wyoming's winds can rip across the Foote Creek Rim at up to 125 mph gusts. These three-finned giants are equipped with an automatic shutdown feature.

Sunlight sets aglow Sinclair Oil Refinery, Sinclair, Wyoming
Late afternoon sunlight sets the metal aglow. The Sinclair refinery shimmered like a mirage but became a shining beacon. For a moment, I expected the great and powerful Oz to reside within this steampunk destination.

Kennecott Utah Copper's Garfield Smelter Stack
Kennecott Utah Copper has virtual tours on their website. The stack is 1,215 feet high. That's 120 stories! Also, it's the tallest structure in Utah. For more fun facts check their fact sheet.

Bulldozer in salt.
Morton Salt Plant, Grantsville, Utah
Notice the bulldozer in the left of the photo. The familiar Morton's logo of a girl holding an umbrella decorates the side of the building. The white mountains are made of salt, not snow.

North Valmy (Coal) Generation Station in Nevada
"...that's water vapor you see at North Valmy not smoke. From Interstate 80 on a brisk winter day some mistake it for smoke. The stacks on the other hand run clear."
Which of course makes me wonder what "run clear" means. Stack scrubbers filter unhealthy emissions.

Coal Canyon exit 112
EP Minerals in Lovelock, Nevada.
Fernley Plant in NV
EP Minerals mines Diatomaceous Earth (DE) and Perlite in Lovelock, Nevada. The many EP Minerals locations gives a tangible quality to that bag of white DE powder I buy for insect management. The Fernley location mines DE and has a rotary kiln for granular DE products.

Geothermal plant near Bradys Hot Springs, highway exit at Fallon, NV.
At first I thought all of these pipes were for fossil fuels, but to my surprise it's a geothermal plant! Wells tap into underground heat.

Nevada Cement Co., Fernley, NV
"Many people confuse the terms cement and concrete. Cement is a fine gray powder that's used to make concrete."--Nevada Cement Co.

Duraflex International, Sparks, NV
I was not expecting this to be a maker of diving boards!

Mars Petcare US Inc., Waltham Way, McCarran, NV
Kal Kan, a brand of dog and cat food, is manufactured at this location. 

Granite Construction Co, Lockwood Facility, quarry, Sparks, NV

Animal, grain, fossil fuel, or mineral. These plants make something into something else fueling our needs for modern conveniences. All of these photos were taken while in the car without stopping. The smoke and vapor haunt me. Maybe another post will require me to get out of the car and see these places up close. A change of perspective can widen one's foundation while the new information helps us better understand the world.

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