By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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FORKS — Ron Davis' log truck had someone new behind the wheel last week as he and two other drivers taught their trade to the three hosts of the U.S. version of “Top Gear,” a popular History Channel TV show.
“It's something I'll never forget,” said Davis, who lives in Forks and has been hauling timber in his own log truck for three years.
“It was an experience of a lifetime.”
A film crew from the show spent about 10 days on the West End and other as-yet-undisclosed North Olympic Peninsula locales as “Top Gear” hosts Tanner Foust, Adam Ferrara and Rutledge Wood tried their hands at driving log trucks.
Now in its fifth season, “Top Gear” features the three hosts test-driving the newest-production cars and taking on automotive-themed challenges, such as building the ultimate amphibious vehicle, according to the History Channel website.
“We're excited to see the final product,” Forks Mayor Bryon Monohon said.
“I hope it shows the city and the timber industry in a good light.”
“Top Gear” joins History Channel offerings “Ax Men” and “Ice Road Truckers” in a list of shows that have either filmed on the Peninsula or featured local residents.
Also filmed on the West End is "The Legends of Mick Dodge," which recently was renewed by the National Geographic Channel for another season.
“It just attracts people to this area because it's beautiful here,” said Lissy Andros, Forks Chamber of Commerce director, on why the Peninsula seems to lure TV film crews.
“The whole Olympic Peninsula is beautiful, and I think we're just finally being discovered.”
Rod Fleck, Forks city attorney and planner, said the “Top Gear” production team came to Forks after state Sen. Jim Hargrove, one of the North Olympic Peninsula's three legislators representing the 24th District in Olympia, told the show's director that the West End would be the perfect place to film an episode featuring log trucks.
Hargrove said Thursday that his daughter, Jewel, works in Los Angeles as a production assistant for the show and told him the director was interested in making an episode in which the hosts drove those lumbering staples of Peninsula highways.
Hargrove said he thought Forks was a natural choice based on its relationship with the timber industry.
Fleck said he was contacted directly by the production team after Hargrove's suggestion.
“I think it's a good opportunity for any community to have a high-quality film crew come out and use your community as a backdrop,” Fleck said.
Fleck then worked with Andros to approach log truck drivers interested in being involved with making the show.
Davis said he and local truck drivers Greg Hagen and Mike Wilhelm each took one of the “Top Gear” hosts under his wing to show them the ins and outs of log trucking driving.
“We will not be on TV,” Davis said.
The drivers trained the hosts on the unused stretch of Quillayute Airport, Davis explained.
Without giving away too much, Davis said the focus of this episode, expected to air this summer, is that the hosts actually drive the trucks along Peninsula roads.
“Once we got them coached up, it was all up to them,” Davis said.
“They all did great.”
Davis said he was struck by how down-to-earth everyone on the crew was, from the camera operators to the hosts themselves.
“They were complete clowns, [and] they were a complete blast,” Davis said of the hosts.
“There was never a dull moment when they were around.”
Andros said she took it upon herself to be the contact person for anything the film crew and hosts needed.
She described the last week and a half as a “learning experience” and said she's looking forward to the next film crew that comes to Forks.
“Coffee is very important to people who are filming, so I learned that,” Andros said with a chuckle.
She said she was glad to see members of the crew stay in local hotels, eat at local restaurants and even hire a local resident or two.
“I think it's been a really good positive experience, and local people pretty much embraced it,” Andros said.
“I just think it was very satisfying to know that what they needed, [the Forks community] could provide.”
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.