Monday, June 7, 2010

The Folks in Forks

On the long drive up the northwest Pacific coast, every once in a while you come across an unexpected bump in the road that turns out to be pretty neat. Or, in today's instance, it's a fork in the road. Driving from Aberdeen Washington up to Port Angeles, we went through the unique town of Forks, and it's worth telling you about it.

Driving into this small town, we started noticing all sorts of large, weird wood sculptures - bears in bikinis, fishermen with frog's heads, a 10-foot angry angel. We had decided that the folks of Forks had way too much time on their hands. Couple this with easy access to chain saws, and it was just enough to put us on guard.

Our mood changed soon enough, though (and it had to be soon, because the town is very small). We came across the Forks Timber Museum. I have since learned it was built by the Forks High School carpentry class in 1990, and I think those young Forkers should be proud of their efforts.

Nonetheless, I just couldn't work up enough enthusiasm to actually go inside and learn any more about timber than I already knew. So we just took a snapshot of their wood sculpture and walked next door to the Forks Tourist Information Center.

We were greeted by a cheery woman. "Welcome to the Twilight Zone," she said. I was torn between thinking she was a very friendly person but also somewhat odd. A few minutes later, she had her small dog cradled in her arms and told us he was a vampire dog. That made my mind up for me - she was definitely a very weird Forker. (OK, I'll stop. We came up with dozens of these during lunch, but I won't use any more in this post.)

It turns out that I was unfair to our greeter. She assumed that we were all relatively aware of current pop culture. Forks, you see, is the setting for the "Twilight" series of vampire novels and movies. That explained a few things. Like the "Forks (Heart) Vampires" sign at the tourist center. And what I took to be a derelict pickup sitting in the front that turned out to be the truck owned by Bella, the heroine of the series.

Given that the target audience for these books is young teenage girls, I don't feel too bad not knowing any of these details. After all, it's always different strokes for different folks. I mean, how many of those girls spent any time last week trying to comprehend how Al and Tipper could split after all these years?

Driving into the center of Forks for lunch, it became quite clear that this is one town that has embraced this vampire tourism with a vengeance. There are Dazzled by Twilight tours; one of the diners has a Bella Burger; even the pharmacy offers Bella's favorite remedies. Most of the motels have something about vampires on their signs.

It turns out that this overdose of Twilight tourism is all working out for the best. Apparently tourism in the town has grown 600 percent since the first book was published in 2005. It couldn't have happened at a better time to bring in much needed money, since the main driver of Forks' economy had been the declining timber industry.

Without the Twilight connection, it is unlikely Forks would have been able to attract too many tourists. If you doubt me, read this from its Wikipedia entry - and remember it was written by someone trying to put a good face on Forks:

Depending on the person, there are several things to do in Forks.
For the teenage group there is a group called the Rainy Day Gamers. These gamers gather every Friday at the ICN Building located a couple blocks away from the stoplight at 71 North Spartan. For others, Forks serves as the hub for numerous day excursions to the Hoh Rainforest, the Pacific Beaches, and various wilderness trails.

In other words, unless you're a kid and unless it's Friday, about the only thing to do in Forks is leave it and go somewhere else close by. Or take the Dazzled by Twilight tour and finish it off with a Bella Burger.

Lots of Forks pix at our share site.

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