At Hillsborough the day before, the gentleman who invited me to spend the night there also recommended a flight near a well-known landmark to the northeast. Flying south from the San Juan Islands, I made the small excursion and beheld the infamous remnants of Mt. St. Helens.
I then cut a sharp line to the southwest to hit the initial coastal waypoint for the upcoming Great American Eclipse
of 2017, centered at Siletz Bay (S45). In addition to most of the Oregon coast, Siletz Bay was completely fogged in. From there, I banked hard to the east and began a steep descent along the eclipse path for an approach to Independence, OR (7S5). Realizing I was far too high, I made two 360-degree turns over a little hamlet by the name of Dallas
before making a smooth 45-degree entry into the pattern for runway 34.
After landing, I taxied onto the tarmac and noticed two places to buy fuel. One was advertising $4.20 per gallon, and the other was $4.12. I taxied up to the cheaper of the two, shut down, and got out.
The pump did not work. I tried using both of my credit cards several times, but to no avail. The card reader would not let me enter the number of gallons I needed. So I climbed back into the cockpit, started up, and taxied over to the far side of the ramp.
As I pulled up to the $4.20 pump, I saw some people standing next to a J-3 Cub waving at me, and I waved back. When I shut down, the woman in the group came over to help me fuel up. When she asked where I was from, I told her.
“Merced?” she asked. “Really? They used to have a great antique fly-in!” she exclaimed. I told her that, yes, we once did, but that it had died years ago. Once Castle Air Force Base closed in 1995, it was the beginning of the end of the Annual Merced West Coast Antique Fly-In
She then called over her husband, Robin Reid, and their two sons, Scooter and Jonathan. Robin was the son of Amelia Reid, the famous flight instructor from San Jose, CA, who also performed at many local airshows. I remembered as a boy watching Amelia perform an amazing energy management routine over Merced’s runway in a Cessna 150 Aerobat.
Robin’s wife, Marici, ran the pump as I topped off the Dove. Afterward, I asked her family to huddle around the J-3, the same model aircraft in which I learned to fly so many years ago.
Robin had just given Scooter, the older son, another flight lesson in the J-3. Scooter was getting ready to solo on July 10. The younger son, Jonathan, would be soloing the following March. Robin and Marici asked where I was heading. When I told them that I was flying through America for 40-days and 40-nights, they asked me if I would like to stay the night with them in their home right there on the field.
When I considered the dump truck from the night before, I warmly accepted the offer and thanked them for such kindness. First, however, Robin said they would take me out for dinner in downtown Independence.
After wiping down the Dove, I buckled up in Robin’s Firebird with Scooter in the back seat, and we drove toward town as the sun began to set. Marici and Jonathan would meet us at the Independence Grill soon after we arrived.
The town of Independence was already in celebration mode for the July 4th weekend. There was an open-air concert setting up in the town square, hundreds of people were congregating nearby, and vendors were selling confections and refreshments along the main thoroughfare into downtown.
We had a wonderful dinner, and I was so thankful for having friends of perfect strangers who so graciously took me in that night in Independence. I told Marici and Robin that I would enjoy the opportunity to walk through downtown and back to the airport later so that I would have a little time to explore Independence before heading off the following morning. They understood completely, and Marici gave me their home address and phone number in case I needed to get ahold of them.
After dinner, I walked back to the airport and absorbed as much as I could of downtown Independence.