When you push open the glass door of Twede’s Cafe located on a busy corner in North Bend, Washington, you experience one of two sensations. If you’re a fan of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s early-90s and recently resurrected television series, Twin Peaks, you instantly recognize the spot as the Double R Diner sans Norma Jennings and Shelly Johnson clad in blue uniforms and standing behind the yellow Formica counter. If the names Norma Jennings and Shelly Johnson mean nothing to you, then the sensation you feel is more akin to time travel. It’s as if you’ve stepped back into an era when wood paneling on walls and sheer curtains on windows were considered fashionable and homemade pies were displayed in acrylic cases. We consider ourselves members of the first group, and we weren’t alone that blustery afternoon. A handful of Twin Peaks tourists populated the Naugahyde booths and red bar stools, each one geeking out – just like Agent Dale Cooper – over the bottomless mugs of strong black coffee. There were also locals on a first-name basis with the waitress and a group of teenagers sharing thick chocolate shakes à la Donna Hayward and Laura Palmer. (Reality check: These teens weren’t even born when the show first aired.) And when the North Bend sheriff sauntered in and took a seat at the counter, as Sheriff Harry S. Truman did so many times on the television show, it was all this Twin Peaks fan could do to not ask him to pose for a selfie.
Welcome to Snoqualmie Valley, aka the fictional town of Twin Peaks, just a 30-minute drive from the traffic snarls of Seattle. (In the original series, Twin Peaks was a plane ride from Seattle – not so in real life.) While the area is popular with outdoor enthusiasts thanks to its, er, twin peaks (Mt. Si in actuality), fans of the television show will be delighted to find a plethora of filming locations scattered along Highway 202 in this logging region. We began our tour in the town of Issaquah at the building that served as Big Ed’s Gas Station. It’s changed considerably in the last 25 years, and we Sedona residents got a kick out of the fact that at one point, the building housed a New Age crystal shop. It’s empty now, but it’s still worth a quick peek. Next it was on to Fall City to see the Fall City Roadhouse, which has received a major facelift since it was the Roadhouse Bar where the secret fraternal society known as the Bookhouse Boys gathered. (Only exterior scenes were shot here; the interior of the roadhouse was filmed elsewhere.)
Next on our tour was Snoqualmie Falls, a day trip destination for Seattle residents needing to escape the concrete jungle. The 270-foot waterfall featured prominently in the TV show’s opening credits. The fictional Great Northern Hotel, a key location in the series, is perched precariously close to the edge of the falls and frequently shrouded in mist and spray. (The Great Northern is actually the tony Salish Lodge & Spa. Book a room or just head to the restaurant and check out the stunning views of Snoqualmie Falls from the windows.) There’s a saying in the television show: The owls are not what they seem. Stand at the viewpoint for Snoqualmie Falls while peering through the mist at Salish Lodge and the surrounding evergreen trees, and that phrase won’t seem so obtuse.
Back on the road, we drove by Mount Si High School, known to us as Twin Peaks High School. Then it was on to the trestle bridge where Ronette Pulaski stumbled back into town wearing nothing but her slip in the pilot episode. In real life, the Reinig Bridge was built in 1916 and used to transport lumber. Only a portion of the bridge still stands, and it’s been paved over for use by cyclists and runners since the early 1990s, but that hasn’t stopped some Twin Peaks fans from leaving cryptic messages on the bridge.
A short drive away is the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station. Packard Sawmill is just a stone’s throw from the station, which is now DirtFish Rally School, a driving school specializing in rally and performance driving. (The building previously served as the sawmill gatehouse.) Step inside the school because, aside from Twede’s Café, it’s probably the site that’s changed the least since the show was filmed. The friendly receptionist told us that Twin Peaks fans frequently stop in and are encouraged to walk the hallways and look into the conference rooms (there weren’t any donuts laid out on the tables during our visit, unfortunately). As for the aforementioned sawmill, it’s in a serious state of disrepair, its smoke stack all but crumbling to the ground.
Our next stop was the location of the Welcome to Twin Peaks sign with Mt. Si looming in the background. The sign is long gone, but the vista is very recognizable. Then it was on to Twede’s Cafe, which was built in 1941 as Thompson’s Cafe. It became the Mar-T Cafe in the 1950s, and that was its moniker when Twin Peaks co-creator David Lynch found it in 1990. In 1997, it was renamed Twede’s Cafe, and it was remodeled. The interior didn’t return to its former glorious kitsch until a 2015 remodel. The cafe can be seen again in the new season of Twin Peaks, which premieres on Showtime May 21, some 26 years after the original series went off the air. The cafe’s menu boasts Twin Peaks Cherry Pie and Damn Fine Cup of Coffee – every bit as delicious as Agent Cooper claimed – along with stick-to-your-ribs diner fare such as Reuben sandwiches and chicken-fried steak. A doll at the counter is dressed in Norma and Shelly’s iconic baby-blue uniform, and you can pick up souvenir mugs emblazoned with the Double R logo. Walk down the hallway toward the restrooms and check out the mini Twin Peaks museum featuring framed photos and newspaper clippings. For diehard fans, a stroll through historic downtown North Bend offers up gift shops boasting handcrafted Twin Peaks souvenirs.
Big Ed’s Gas Station, 8606 Preston Fall City Road SE, Issaquah; Roadhouse Bar, 4200 Preston Fall City Road SE, Fall City; Snoqualmie Falls and the Great Northern Hotel, 6501 Railroad Ave. SE, Snoqualmie; Twin Peaks High SchooL, 8651 Meadowbrook Way SE, Snoqualmie; Ronette’s bridge, 40412 SE Reinig Road, Snoqualmie; Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station and Packard Sawmill, 7001 396th Drive SE, Snoqualmie; Welcome to Twin Peaks sign, 41433 SE Reinig Road, Snoqualmie; double r diner, 137 W. North Bend Way, North Bend (www.twedescafe.com).
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