News

A fountain of knowledge

 -
— image credit:

NORTH BEND _ For many of the 7,000 or so visitors who made


their way across the Eastern Washington desert, over the Columbia River


Gorge and through the Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90 this summer, Ed


Stow and Betty Gildersleeve were the first to smile and welcome them to


Western Washington.


From Memorial Day to Labor Day, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a


week, either Stow or Gildersleeve or both can be found inside the small visitor


information center in North Bend, at the intersection of Bendigo Way and


Park Street.


Along with a microwave, a couple of chairs, a desk and a filing


cabinet, the two share their cramped space with hundreds of brochures and


informational materials. From the Salish Lodge and Resort to Mount Si,


from Pike Place Market to British Columbia, they point people in the right


direction.


As employees of the Bellevue-based East King County


Convention and Visitors Bureau, to which the cities of Snoqualmie and North


Bend contribute funds, Stow and Gildersleeve meet people from


across the United States and around the world. Contained in a


spiral-bound notebook used to log visitors to the center, are the names of cities


and countries dotting every continent.


Thumbing his way through the logbook, Stow pointed to the


home countries of some recent visitors, including Brazil, Japan — "A


weekly occurrence," he said — Ethiopia,


Finland, Romania, Luxembourg and Denmark.


"You just cannot believe the people we get," he said.


Stow has worked at the visitor information center since 1986. For


26 years before that, he was a traveling salesman, whose territory


covered much of Western Washington and British Columbia. Upon retiring, his


wife gave him an ultimatum: Either find something to do, or she would find


it for him. Soon after that, he had an interview for a position at the


visitors information center.


"I came up here, and I was one of 10 people and one of three they


hired," he said. "It's not a demanding job."


But some would say Stow is being modest. Gregarious by nature


and possessing an anecdote for seemingly every situation, the Fall City native


has seen it all, from "Twin Peaks" mania to the flood of people relocating


to Western Washington.


"Ed runs the show," Gildersleeve said. "I just do what he needs me


to do."


Gildersleeve started at the information center two years ago, filling


in on Thursday afternoons. This was her first full summer working at the


center. During the winter, Gildersleeve, of North Bend, works as a


substitute teacher for Snoqualmie Valley School District No. 410.


"The people that are stopping here, we're their first contact; we're the


first person they see in Western Washington" she said.


"I've had a dream summer job. I couldn't ask for a better job …


I'm being paid to have fun."


She said the two most common questions visitors to the


information center have are: "Where's the


trailhead to Mount Si and where are the falls?"


The two questions are so common that Stow and Gildersleeve drew up


a small map that they Xerox and hand out to those needing directions.


And in the event the person manning the booth has to step away for a few


minutes, they'll tape a map to the front door.


During an interview with a reporter, Stow took time to answer


a visitor's question about how to get to Snoqualmie Falls. He dug out one


of his Xeroxed maps and showed the man.


"I could tell you to follow Highway 202, but then I wouldn't need


to be working here," Stow quipped.


While much of the information the two disperse comes in the form


of maps and brochures stashed inside and outside the A-frame booth, because


of their knowledge of the state, Stow and Gildersleeve are often able to


give firsthand accounts of how to get places and what to do once a visitor


gets there. And it's that added personal touch that make visitors leave the


information center with a smile.


"It helps people if you can personally say, `I've been


there,'" Gildersleeve said.


"It really makes you feel good to think you can solve those


problems," Stow said.


In his 14 years at the information center, Stow has helped solve


thousands of problems, but one of his favorite recollections is about an


Illinois man who drove across Washington five years ago. Upon arriving in


North Bend and stopping at the visitor information center, the man


asked, somewhat incredulous, "Do you know there's a desert between here and


Spokane?"


Susan Hankins, director of the Upper Valley Chamber of


Commerce, said Stow and Gildersleeve are naturals at their jobs. The


Chamber helps select people to work at the information center.


"They're just treasures, they truly are," she said. "You really do need


a personality that loves people.


"So many people are given information that they could never get if


they didn't stop and talk to these people."


Stow said during his first eight to 10 years on the job, 30 percent of


the people who stopped at the center were fans of "Twin Peaks." An extra in


the pilot episode, he said the fans of the television series and movie _ the


show was cancelled in 1991 — continue visiting the area to this day.


Many of them have visited the Valley area more than once. Stow


said a woman from England has been to North Bend three times, the first


two times with her husband and once by herself. Recently the mother of a


teen-age "Twin Peaks" fan pulled Stow aside and thanked him for his help


after telling her son where different scenes for the television show


were shot.


A few days before closing up the center for the summer,


Gildersleeve said the last three months have


passed quickly.


"I can't believe the summer's over," she said.


"I've already told Sue, `Sign me up for next year.'"

EMAIL NEWSLETTERS

Latest news, top stories, and community events,
delivered to your inbox.

Trending Stories Nov 17 - Nov 24

  • Snoqualmie Valley Record

  • Western Washington

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Nov 19
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.