Although I had been raped twice in Fallon, I did have realitively good times in the dessert; or as good as they could be. My first detachment I spent most of my time working with my shop until I was caught in a shipmates room attempting to avoid the sex acts taking place in my own. I was only twenty and mostly stuck around to those I knew decently but I left base every chance I got.
I went shopping in Reno, ate the casino buffets, went skinny dipping in Lake Tahoe and then rode around the entire lake with our van door open to dry our clothes before going back to base, and watched a friend fly a kite over the shores while we picked fresh sage to take back to our homes. I marveled at the scenery and majestic landscape the dessert provided. One day, as was customary for many sailors to do, we decided we wanted to visit the local brothel.
I had been sent on a mission by a roomate to get a menu, and I had every intention of fullfilling it. I was the designated driver since I was underage, and the only female. We drove to the outskirts of town and finally arrived at the front of a trailer park. Right off the side of the road stood the famous Bunny Ranch. I immediately parked the van in front of the entrance and we hastily made our way inside to get my elusive menu.
I made it about two feet into the door when a very obese woman in a blue bra with the most enormous breasts I had ever seen called out to us. I quickly realized she was calling out to me, asking me if I had a permit to be inside a brothel. Baffled and embarrassed I stammered I didn’t as my face became a bright cherry red inferno. I shrugged my shoulders and said I would be making sand castles out by the van until my shipmates were finished.
Defeated, I left the brothel, but was quickly greeted by my shipmates who also wanted to return to town. We decided to stop at our favorite local stop, the birdfarm, and finished off our night badly singing to the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughn and figuring out how a silver dollar would go in the juke box. I attempted to play darts but struck a local man in the head and quickly surrendered in exchange for remaining in the bar until close.
We cooked on the grills outside the barracks and played spades and other games to pass the time. The base had a go cart track and small cafe and bar to spend time in. I believe there was a bowling alley as well. The second detachment we finally convinced master chief to give us the van one day to go for an adventure. We all wanted to go somewhere different so we went to Tahoe for the obvious, Sacramento to see the capital, San Francisco to eat in China Town and cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and Reno for late night casino dinner all in our one day off.
While people were wild and crazy and bad things did happen, it was a time of bonding for me and many of my shipmates. We learned to have loyalty and respect for one another that continued to grow the more time we spent on the ship after we left the dessert. We bonded over dessert buggers, pigs in space, the insane things you only do if you are in the military, the close quarters of sweaty kitty litter covered techs farting bad grilled food, and the never ending inside jokes that would follow us for years. As our final jets took off and the remaining Skelton crew members boarded our flight to head back to Virginia I watched the setting sun go down on both a place I learned from tremendously but also as a place I knew I never wanted to return to.