We also had a wander around the botanical gardens. Although small, it was in full colour – the fall was probably in its finest week before the snow which had threatened earlier in the week finally took hold and made the leaves drop. It was getting close to lunch time by now and Gray had a surprise for me, but first we decided to eat and met up with his wife at the town library. The strip we had spent most time on so far was in fact just the main road out of town and because it was close to the university campus, had a range of cafes and boutique shops. The real down town was that one Main Street with the bank and hotel and all the other important buildings. The library was tucked at the back of this. When we emerged, Gray looked up at the sky; which was almost completely blue, and said “I think we are going to get a good view.”
We drove a mile or so past a small industrial estate south west of town and drew up at the entrance to Brookings Airfield. No commercial flights come in and out but it had a bustle of industry which you do not see in small airfields in the UK. Plenty of small two-seater planes, a helicopter or two, and many large hangers were scattered around. Gray drove to one of these hangars and unlocked a small door, stepping inside to start up the mechanism to open the larger hangar doors, which rolled up into the roof. Inside were a bunch of boys’ toys. Several antique and vintage cars, another biplane and, taking up most of the central space, a fixed wing glider. This was Gray’s pride and joy – he had been a pilot for many years. In fact he had told me of a trip once to the UK where he had flown – turned out he had been at a gliding club on the North Downs less than 20 miles from my home.
We’d chatted to a couple of guys dressed up in old leathers who were looking at their own valued toy at the other end of the hangar. It was an old fighter plane – I was never told whether it was an original refurbished one or a modern remake, but it looked the part. It was apparently one of the US Marine Fighter Squadron, and it roared into life and was taxied out into the open air, round several hangars before taking off. A second biplane went up in the air while Gray prepared his glider.