We begin our journey this week with a short drive out of town to Corvallis Municipal Airport. I met two very impressive young men out there — Luc Barnes and Luke Haslam — to chat with them about their love of flying.
You see, both of them are only 17 years old and one already has his pilot’s license while the other is getting close to finishing the requirements. My previous experiences with Luc Barnes has been through his exceptional talent on the ski slopes as one of the top youth competitive skiers in the state. I’ve crossed paths with Luke Haslam on many occasions through soccer, tennis, dance and just by knowing his family.
Then we head out to Nectar Creek, a mead production facility with a cool taproom that sits on the west end of Philomath. The business closed its doors after a fairly short run in Philomath — it opened in January 2018 after relocating from Corvallis.
The first time I tried Nectar Creek’s mead was not long after the Lorenz brothers established the business in a small building in the back of the Eastgate Business Center is Corvallis. I can’t remember if it was Phil or Nick, but we learned about mead and I enjoyed the sampling. We made the stop as part of a Bounty of Benton County tasting tour.
With that, let’s go ahead and get started with this week’s drive:
First stop — Corvallis Municipal Airport
While watching Luc Barnes and Luke Haslam take off from Corvallis Municipal Airport in a small plane, I found myself admiring these two teenagers for their courage to take on the challenge of working toward their pilot licenses.
Perhaps others may not see this as courageous, but I personally would place it in this category. I would never have the courage to go fly a plane — especially on my own and especially not back when I was a teenager. Luc and Luke both were exposed to flying through family members from a young age, however, and perhaps it’s not that big of a deal to them.
I had ventured out to the airport to interview the Philomath High seniors. When I found out about what they were doing, I thought it sounded like a great story. I also thought that it must be extremely rare for two teens from a small town like Philomath to get their pilot licenses at the same time (Barnes has one, Haslam still has a ways to go).
When I was about 11 years old, I spent part of a weekend hanging out with my brother-in-law while helping him move. I can’t recall exactly why, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with him needing me to sit in the back of a pickup and hang on to a washing machine so it wouldn’t go tumbling out the back (like I’d be able to stop that from happening anyway).
After hauling some things from his former residence into a different house (it was right after he married my sister), he and his buddy decided they were going to head over to the airport for a side trip. They felt like going up in his friend’s small plane.
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What? There’s no way I was going to go up in a small plane — especially with those guys. I mean, they seemed fun and everything, but it seems like most of the time they were goofing around. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they hung out at the sand pits with the "bad kids" and downed beers while smoking “skunk weed” — the term back in the day for marijuana that grew wild.
This is from the perspective of an 11-year-old, remember, but yeah, I’m thinking there’s no way I’m going to go fly with these guys. As the drive toward the small, rural airport continued and they talked about going up, I began to really get worried. In fact, I think I made quite a scene to the point that they decided to nix the whole idea. To this day, I’m not sure if that was a joke to get me worked up or if they actually did plan to go flying.
Since those days, I’ve flown commercially a few dozen times — and yes, I used the vomit bag on my very first flight. I did go for a ride about 15 years ago while covering an air show in a B-25 Mitchell — and yes, I vomited just as we were landing. And I’ve gone up in a helicopter on a couple of occasions, which actually were very smooth flying experiences. No vomit bag needed.
But in a small plane? Never and no thanks, I’ll leave that to the teens.
Side trip — Nectar Creek
As I write this, I’m sitting at a table over in the corner at Nectar Creek enjoying a ginger mead — a favorite of mine ever since I first tried it. A short time ago, Phil Lorenz was sitting here at the table with me and we talked about how the business that he runs with his brother, Nick, was closing down.
I don’t write a lot of stories about businesses closing down. Most of these business stories revolve around an opening with a positive vibe in the air and often accompanied by a grand opening or ribbon-cutting. But Nectar Creek’s closing is fairly important news here in Philomath because of what I had perceived as a very popular spot. I wanted to know what went wrong and I’m sure a lot of readers would be interested to know as well.
I’m not sure if I would want to talk to a newspaper if my business was closing but Phil responded right away to my interview request. He answered all of my questions in a gracious and professional manner. When we were finished, I felt bad for seeing the business go but as I watched him with his infant daughter, I also know that he’s someone who will land on his feet.
“I don’t have to rush to get a new job,” he told me. “I’m just trying to tie up as many loose ends as I can and do right by as many people as I can.”
That was a theme throughout our interview. Phil talked about all of the other people impacted by the closure — the customers from Philomath and the surrounding area but most importantly, his 20-plus employees.
“Right now, I’m really focused on doing right by all of our employees and all of the stakeholders in the community that have helped us and supported us,” he said. “I’ve had so many dedicated people starting with our employees and right now, I’m focused on trying to go through this transition as gracefully as I can and showing as much appreciation as I can to everyone.”
For the specifics on what happened with Nectar Creek, read the story that I put together on its closure. I won’t rehash all of that here and will only relay my thought that this is a local business that will be missed despite its short 21-month run in Philomath.
A final cheers to the Lorenz brothers — best of luck with your future.
Brad Fuqua is editor of the Philomath Express. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-480-6919.