How To Make Every Duty Station A Home: Fallon, NV Edition

Winter time in Nevada leaves the mountains picturesque amongst the dry ground
Winter time in Nevada leaves the mountains picturesque amongst the dry ground

I never knew how important it was to be able to make where you live, a place that you love until we joined the Navy.  The Navy was never on our radar either–neither my husband nor myself grew up with any form of military affiliation.  It was just a random day in college when a recruiter came into my husbands class and preached the life of a naval officer.  He came home that afternoon and threw the idea at me to ponder.  My husband had planned on going back to his home-town after college so I saw the Navy life as an opportunity to explore the states and hopefully the world.  In my ignorance I assumed that since we were joining the Navy we would always be stationed by the ocean (quite honestly the selling point for me) and who wouldn’t love being stationed by the ocean?  Boy was I wrong and quickly corrected when we landed Fallon, Nevada as our first duty station.  Fallon taught me how to fall in love with an undesirable duty station.

Fallon, Nevada

Pond in Fallon, Nevada is home to fish, frogs, and crawling critters

Our first duty station was Fallon, Nevada.  The running joke there is that it’s best to bring your family in at night.  Fallon is a former lakebed and its nickname is “The Oasis of Nevada”.  Unfortunately it doesn’t quite look like the “oasis” you or I would probably describe.  Fallon has very salty soil and not a lot of water so everything is very dry and brown.  As you drive in to Fallon you are greeted with about 30 miles of dried and salt-crusted land—barren of all vegetation.  It truly feels like you are being pranked somehow because it’s miles of nothing in every direction but somehow you just keep driving on an endless road.  We did not drive in at night and in fact I drove in without my husband (probably for the best).  I vividly remember thinking “what on Earth did we sign ourselves up for?”  I was nervous, frustrated, confused, and concerned how we were going to live there for two years.  We had a newborn and no family nearby to help us out and to top it all off we would be living smack dab in the middle of nowhere.  I remember my thoughts were bouncing off of all of the emotions but I remained silent as we drove in.  The assumption that service members in the Navy would always be near the ocean was quickly corrected.  Ignorance is not always bliss folks.

Three months.  For three full months I stayed angry and bitter about being stationed in Fallon.  Then one day I had an epiphany and I chose to lift my eyes up and take a look around.  I was able to switch my thinking from “we HAVE to live here for two years” to “we GET to live here for two years”.  I wish I could remember what triggered me to stop moping around but that small detail has escaped me.  That switch though, has changed how I live my life and how I approach each duty station.  My goal is to now approach each station with the attitude of gratitude.

Seeing Fallon With New Eyes

Fallon, Nevada doesn’t have miles of beautiful ocean views, but it does have miles of open land that creates beautiful desert sunsets.  Fallon doesn’t have any celebrities residing in the city but it does have a community that escorts the high school football team out with all of the bells and whistles.  Fallon doesn’t have a lot of big-name stores and restaurants but it does have some amazing locally owned restaurants and coffee shops.  Fallon has about 3 stoplights within the town and the rest of the intersections are stop signs.  The town gathers throughout the year for community events and the general population truly appreciates the heavy presence of Naval servicemembers.  So no, its not some grand place to live, but the community is what makes it a home.  Once I put my bitterness to the side I began to meet some incredible residents and I started to truly appreciate and fall in love with Fallon.

SO—What is There To Do In and Around Fallon?

Fallon is a great duty station for those who enjoy the outdoors.  There are sand dunes, hiking trails, old mining towns to explore, Lake Tahoe is about 2 hours away, and plenty of history to uncover in neighboring areas.  Our family really enjoyed visiting Lake Tahoe and Virginia City for fun weekend getaways.  In Fallon there are community events all year including:  4th of July celebration, Cantaloupe Festival, Christmas tree lighting ceremony, etc.  Reno is also just over an hour away and it offers everything from baseball games, concerts, casinos, shopping malls, and big city festivals/amenities.

  • Lake Tahoe
Seeing the snow-capped mountains at Lake Tahoe during our first winter in Fallon

Most of our trips to Lake Tahoe were to South Lake Tahoe area which was about a 2-hour drive.  Winter time in South Lake Tahoe is picturesque–the lodge and village area is such a fun way to spend a winter evening.  In the summer time the hikes around Emerald Bay have some incredible views and are for all skill levels.  Most of our trips up to the lake were just day trips but we did spend a few weekends up there via rental homes, hotels, and we did camp up there once.  Looking back now I do wish we would’ve done more weekend trips up there because there truly is so much to see along the lake.  One of our goals we weren’t able to accomplish was driving the circumference of Lake Tahoe.

Sand Harbor was another popular place to visit while we lived in Fallon
Summer time is the only time when you can drive to Emerald Bay due to the snowfall and narrow roads that lead to this beautiful spot
  • Virginia City
Stars and stripes are proudly displayed all throughout Virginia City as they prepare for the parade and festivities for the Fourth of July

I knew moving to Fallon would provide opportunities to visit Lake Tahoe.  The lake is a well-known tourist location and I was excited to be so close to it, but I had no idea what other interesting locations were nearby.  Virginia City was introduced to me via our church members.  A couple from the church had decided to make it their honeymoon location and I was so intrigued to learn more about it.  I found it peculiar that this couple didn’t want to go to the famous, crystal-clear lake just a little further north for the romantic getaway.  One weekend my husband and I decided to go check the old town out.  Virginia City is an old mining town with so much amazing history.  Each building has a story to tell and while some of the town feels quite eerie, it feels as if you were taken back in time.  My favorite hidden gem of Virginia City were the ostrich and camel races.   YUP!  You read that right—ostrich and camel races in the Nevada desert hosted by an old mining town.  You just can’t pass that up.  It was very entertaining and something so unique to that area.

Located in the middle of the city is this amazing mural in Virginia City (45 min from Fallon) is packed with snippets of the towns history

From Misery to Memories

One of our family trips up to Lake Tahoe.  We took in the beauty of Emerald Bay (2.5 hours from Fallon) and hiked nearby trails.

Those brief items listed above are just a snapshot of our time in Fallon.  We definitely didn’t get to do everything, but we made sure we got to know just what makes Fallon so special.  Halfway into our time in Fallon I realized how much time I had wasted in college and the first little bit of Fallon by not looking up and choosing to only see the faults.  I stayed so focused on the chaos of everyday life and the things I didn’t like about our home that I forgot to look up and appreciate where I was for such a temporary time.  I grew to really love Fallon and the people there–we met some incredible friends that I know will be lifelong friends all through the church.  I’ll be honest, I don’t have a desire to go back and live there again, but if the day came where the detailer told us we were going back, I’d be okay with it.  I’ll be the first to admit it’s not the prettiest place to live but there truly is so much to offer if you just try.  As we transitioned to California, I knew right away that I needed to start researching unique things to the area and make my bucket list of activities and spots to tour.  I didn’t want to waste any time because I knew the 4 years would fly by and I didn’t want to have regrets in knowing we chose to sit at home every weekend instead of exploring.  I know someday we will get orders to another undesirable location and I will have to challenge myself to find the beauty, but this time I know that it will all be worth it in the end.  One of the things I am quick to notice is when I see a spouse/couple refuse to appreciate a duty station.  It breaks my heart because their views translate clearly to their kids, friends, and relatives.  There is no perfect place to live this side of Heaven so failure will always be found if that is how people approach every place they live.  This is of course my philosophy, but I do think it’s important to search for the good and not dwell on the negatives.  The beauty of being in the military is that we get to move around so much that we know wherever we go, it’s only temporary.

So-why would you not try and make each duty station feel like home?