Road Trip Snapshots

Out West: Austin artist and musician Jess Williamson's photos from the open road

Editor's note: This selection of images comes from different tours and road trips Jess Williamson has taken over the last two years, all of which have been through Western America. "There was not a premeditated focus on a certain part of the country; it just worked out this way and I kept heading west," says Williamson.

The familiar concept of the “Great American Road Trip,” particularly through the mythic Western states, has become a classic, if not overused, allegory for youth in literature and song.

The open road endows a sense of limitlessness and freedom. There are no commitments. The landscape itself is disposable, passing quickly from the car window; and towns, even people, last a day or two until you’re on the road again, following the sun.

I find this part of the country inspiring and nourishing. As a native Texan, there is something at once comfortable but also unknown about this landscape, and in spite of the tropes, I have found the beauty of the Western states to be ancient, heavy and lasting.

Last summer on tour, there was one free day in between Boise and Denver, so we stopped at Antelope Island. It’s this weird stretch of land in the Great Salt Lake, about an hour outside of Salt Lake City. There were actually no antelope, from what we saw, and instead there were lots of buffalo, like this guy.

The last couple of years, New Year's Eve has been spent in Marfa. Right after New Years of 2012 —  I think it was January 2 — my friend Kari and I drove up to White Sands, New Mexico from Marfa.

We felt like we were on a different planet, and it was a fitting way to start the apocalypse year.



This photo is in Utah, taken from the 5-mile long land-bridge connecting Antelope Island to the mainland. It's some kind of mini-island inside the Great Salt Lake.




We were in southern Wyoming here, trying to get to Boise in time for a show. Lauren and Tiffanie of Mirror Travel (formerly Follow that Bird!) were kind enough to let me open for them on a few shows during their 2011 summer tour.

At this moment we were almost out of gas, but everyone really needed a restroom stop, so we made a judgment call and pulled over. We ended up being fine, of course.



This year I spent New Year's in Marfa again, and the next day drove out to the Chinati Hot Springs. This is the cabin where we stayed — I suppose it is an actual oasis.

You’re in the middle of the desert, about seven miles from the Mexican border, in a location only reachable by dirt roads.




Before we played the first show of the summer 2012 tour, which was in Marfa, we stopped at Balmorhea for a swim. Pictured are the feet of me and Callie; all the fish were biting us.

I loved this because in Asia you can actually pay for pedicures involving live fish, and here we were getting it for free. Callie wasn’t so into it.




And finally, a very cool truck found on the side of the highway between Austin and Waco.