Reno VA Medical Center – Reno, Nevada
At 6:45 sharp, we departed the hotel for the Auburn Veterans Hall, where the Auburn Jeep Club grilled breakfast: eggs, sausage, and the fluffiest pancakes this side of the Mississippi. If last night’s dinner hadn’t settled, yet, this breakfast would surely weigh it down.
California weather was ideal; clear skies and warm temperatures; an unusual start for the NVAR. After our fill, certificates of appreciation were handed out to representatives of the many who support our mission; the jeep club, fire department, police dept., American Legion Riders, and VFW Aux. We could not do this without their support. An addition to our regular riders meeting, Sweetness, aka Dan Kress, read tributes, with recognition to the loved ones they left behind. Army Chief Warrant Officer, Jonathan R. Farmer, Navy Chief Cryptologic Tech, Shannon M. Kent, and Scott Andrew Wirtz made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. They are not forgotten.
Before our departure prayer, Wayne spoke of the crisis of veteran suicides at 22 per day: that means 220 will take their lives during the time of our ride. We must do more to recognize veterans in crisis situations and prevent tragedy. If you suspect someone in crisis, politely ask if you can help, or contact a person with a connection or qualifications.
We rolled out with more than 35 bikes, a few would return from Reno. Onto the Donner Pass and through forest we climbed. Near Colfax, patriots cheered from an overpass with flags and banners, and probably some hooting and hollering! Great to see them. At 4,000 feet in elevation we felt crispness in the air; but just enough to compliment the leathers. I didn’t even turn on my heated liners! Traces of snow laid on high east and north facing slopes, sure to be gone soon, with heavier patches in the shade of dense forest that will be a little slower to go. We crested Donner Summit, 7227 ft. elevation, in the best of conditions.
From the Boomtown gas stop, the Reno Motor Police escorted us through the city to the VMAC,. We were grateful for their support, and Reno traffic should be thankful for that, too.
Glenna Smith and Joann Sarris gave a cheerful welcome to the 2022 NVAR arrival. The hospital was off-limits, however, for the first time since the pandemic began, a few privileged and healthy veterans were allowed outside, and quickly overwhelmed with greetings from 40+ riders anxious to meet them, from a safe distance, of course. Two medals of freedom were presented to veterans who served in the War on Terror.
New to the Reno VMAC is the Veterans Guest House across the street, with accommodations for 33 veterans and their families. It’s decked out with fully furnished bedrooms, dining area, living room, reading room, and an expansive kitchen, with a nice covered patio. A pleasant setting for comfort during stressful and anxious times. And for lunch each year, we’re treated to elk burgers, smothered in mushrooms and onions. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Our escort arrived on time and cleared a corridor for our safe passage to I-80, and east we rolled in the heat of the Nevada desert. Sharp dark shadows followed each rider. Two gas stops later we met our next escort for passage into Elko for dinner and social time at the VFW Club. Those people have been fantastic hosts for years beyond my time with the NVAR.
Three healthy meals and a day in the sun had taken a toll on all riders. Social time was short, as was the ride to the hotel. More desert lays beside our trail tomorrow as we roll to Salt Lake City for whatever surprise changes may be for our visit to the Utah State Veterans Nursing Home.
Thank You & Never Forget – Mike (Track) Rinowski