As I always say, when you travel at 3mph you see EVERYTHING. Equestrian travel is a great way to develop perspective for the land and to notice the little nuances that might otherwise be missed in a vehicle. Over the course of our 74 day ride this year I began to see many small differences in the terrain of northern Nevada. In some places I saw the grasshoppers were black with red inside their wings. In other places they were bright green with yellow wings. Some valleys boasted tall, lush, healthy sagebrush. Others were sparsely scattered with scrubby-looking sage and other bunchgrasses. Some ranges seemed overflowing with creeks, springs, and other water sources. While others seemed much more parched. It's tiny differences like these that help us to truly understand a place.
Northern Nevada is very diverse, but sometimes that isn't always obvious. For 1,100+ miles we traveled through dense forests, playa deserts, meadows, and everything in between. I was always amazed at how Nevada could change from one basin and range to the next. But, over time I did notice something ubiquitous about Nevada. Something that never changed no matter where we traveled. In every range, in every valley, in the seemingly most remote places, and through eight Nevada counties - it was always there. Once I noticed this constant presence, I couldn't not see it. I even began to seek it out. And I spent a lot of time pondering it.
I'm talking of course about Bud Light cans littered along the side of roads and trails.
I noticed them almost as soon as we began our journey. Initially I dismissed them as merely the litter of a careless traveler who had gone before me. That's rude, I thought to myself as I returned to analyzing the scenic panorama around me. But a few miles later, there they were again. And then another. And another. I didn't believe it at first. I thought it must be a fluke of the place were happened to be in. But they never stopped appearing. Mile after mile, Bud Light can after Bud Light can. Sure, there was the occasional Natural Ice can or Pabst Blue Ribbon can. Once I even saw a Rolling Rock bottle. But, without a doubt, the number one beer of choice in the Nevada backcountry is Bud Light.
They began to appear as a cairn of sorts, guiding me along the trail, marking the path of travel. Sometimes it was like a game - When will I see the next one? Ah, there it is! Always the same, casually tossed just along the side of the road. Often they were obscured by some brush, but the bright blue can with the bold white lettering was always visible - a stark contrast against the subdued colors of the arid Nevada landscape. Sometimes I'd think "I'm so remote, surely no one else has ever been here!" But then, as if the Bud Light gods were listening, a can would appear to remind me that there are no blank spots on the map anymore.
I began to notice the nuances of the litter itself. Mostly there were cans. But sometimes there were bottles. Amber bottles. Aluminum bottles. Occasionally I spotted the discarded case boxes. Oh look, a patriotic themed can with stars! Perhaps leftover from the 4th of July weekend I hypothesized. The designs changed frequently, and I wondered about the graphics team who works hard to keep the cans looking fresh and exciting. Sometimes the cans were crumpled and faded, some obviously old, but most were pristine - as if they had just been tossed out the window that morning.
Early on I naively considered picking up the cans as I rode, but I quickly realized the effort would take considerable time and I wouldn't be able to carry them all in my saddle bags. Over time the omnipresent Bud Light cans became a conversation point between Ryan and I at the end of the day. "I saw a lot of cans today," or "Only two cans on the trail today!," I'd faithfully report to Ryan along with my sightings of animals or interesting terrain. I was surprised to discover that he didn't notice them at all from the truck.
Why Bud Light?, I eventually wondered. What is it about this particular beer that makes it so popular among the type of person who would discard it along the trail? What's the correlation? As I rode I found myself looking for clues that might explain the pervasive presence. Sadly, there were no discernible patterns. Bud Light was simply everywhere, from one county to the next, on the highest mountain peaks, on the toughest trails - the only constant on a journey full of uncertainties.
All lightheartedness aside, please don't throw your empty beer cans out the window. In fact, just don't litter period. It really ruins it for those of us who head out into nature to experience nature. Eventually Bud Light sightings became as much a part of the ride as seeing antelope or wild horses. I even found myself compelled to document them in photos as I did with everything else I saw. It bummed me out and it made me a little embarrased for Nevada. Our public lands are too pretty and to precious to be marred by such thoughtlessness.
The latest updates from Samantha on the Nevada Discovery Ride.