If you come to a Forks in the road, don’t take it.

A few weeks back, I met up with my girlfriend and her son for some camping in the Olympic National Forest. There are dozens of campgrounds that you can drive right up to, pitch a tent, and spend a lovely evening under climax forest. We got to do campfire cooking and hiking and take some pictures. During the four days that I joined them I even got to teach the kid how to skip stones.

But even very good vacations can have their bleak spots. Moments that, with any luck, are washed out in your memory by the glowing hues of the better times. Alas – for me, even the hoary majesty of the Hoh rainforest will never eclipse the dismal hours that were torn from our lives in Forks.

Forks, Washington is the setting for the Twilight series of vampire-teen-romance novels by Stephenie Meyer. She apparently chose Forks because it has the greatest number of overcast days in the year of any continental United States town. Good on her for doing some research.

In the nonfiction world, Forks is a pretty depressing place whose primary reason for existing – logging – has dried up years ago. The only real trees on the peninsula now are on protected land. Logging still goes on, and forests are cultivated to provide timber, but the logging tracts hold trees that are barely larger around than telephone poles. The climax forests that are in the national park have some trees that are bigger around than my car. Logging is no longer a very profitable enterprise there, and as a result, Forks has been in decline for a couple of decades.

We pulled in to Forks around lunch time and decided to get some food. We had to stop by the store there to replenish our rations, and none of us felt much like trying to cook something on the tailgate of my car, so we figured why not – surely the local eateries would be fine for a lunch stop.

The first place we stopped at seemed perfect. It was busy and it was almost completely kitsch-free; the only nod to the Twilight notoriety of the town was a pair of plaques on the wall announcing the relative populations of humans, vampires and werewolves in the area. After a ten-minute wait, we were seated and my girlfriend found something gluten-free on the menu which she could eat. (A traveling diabetic and someone with gluten intolerance can have a hard time at most eateries, but we usually manage.) We placed our food and drink orders and made small talk around the table.

Twenty-five minutes later, when no drinks (not even water) had arrived at our table, the waiter came back to inform us that the dish my girlfriend had ordered was unavailable. Our moods darkened. I had taken my insulin dose, which takes about half an hour to kick in, when we placed our orders. And there was nothing else on the menu that she could eat without suffering some really unpleasant gastrointestinal distress. So we thanked our waiter and left.

We went across the street to another apparently kitsch-free diner. I have no doubt that this establishment was very good or that they genuinely cared about their clientele. But we sat in our booth for another ten minutes without anyone coming by, even to deliver menus.

At this point my blood sugar was plummeting because of the insulin I’d injected over a half hour ago and we had very little hope that this second place, busy as it was, would be able to get us any food in a timely manner. So we bit the bullet and went to a third place just down the road – one which we’d avoided at first because it was very obviously trading on the Twilight theme (the sparkly sign that said “TWILIGHT” outside kind of gave it away).

We went in to the final spot and in short order were seated, got our drinks, and placed our orders. I’d smuggled in a sack of trail mix that I had brought along for blood sugar emergencies and felt a little guilty for nibbling on it while in a restaurant. We placed fairly safe orders – barbecued ribs for me, macaroni and cheese for the kid, and nachos for the girlfriend.

The food arrived pretty quickly and we ate it, but it was still pretty depressing. The mac and cheese was out of a box. The meat on the nachos was a can of Wolf brand chili with beans. (I recognize both of these things. I spent too long in college.) And I could not eat the last two ribs in my order because they were still frozen solid.

I genuinely hope that my experience in Forks was abnormal, and that other travelers will fare better. But after relating our experience to the park ranger the next night, I got a nugget of wisdom that may help others. Don’t go to the restaurants in Forks – hit the hospital instead. Apparently the cafeteria is open to the public, has good food, and is really cheap.

3 Responses to “If you come to a Forks in the road, don’t take it.”

  1. marnie Says:

    Lil’ bro, all I can say is that from your description, Forks has actually come up in the world since I lived on the Olympic Peninsula 20 years ago. (My god, has it actually been two decades??!) I just remember the Logging Parade. I’m not kidding. Made up mostly of logging trucks decorated with tinsel, and I swear they crowned a Dead Tree Queen or something. (Maybe it was Princess Deep-fried Spotted Owl? My memory’s not what it used to be.)

  2. janna Says:

    You know, the vampires in Twilight don’t eat, so that’s probably why the food is so bad in Forks.

  3. Suzy Says:

    Glad you finally got something in your belly. I guess you cannot trust the saying: if the parking lot is full, the food is good!