By Bill Gobie
Pre-riders: Kate Hotler, Bill Gobie
Distance: 406 km
Climbing: 9300 ft (Ride with GPS); 9100 ft (Wahoo Elemnt Bolt)
Seattle ferry terminal: The vehicle entrance has changed due to construction. If you have not driven onto the ferry recently, read WSF’s directions! Google Maps’ directions are wrong! Don’t miss the boat! Driving to Bremerton takes an hour and a half!
The bicycle entrance is still at Yesler, although from the south left turns are not permitted – use the crosswalk. Read WSF’s directions (scroll down to bicycles).
From the start at the Bremerton ferry terminal Starbucks we ride three blocks north and turn left on 4th St. Taking 4th avoids the difficult hills and impatient drivers on our traditional route on Burwell. The route turns onto Burwell for the plunge to the left turn onto Callow.
In another break from our traditional departure from Bremerton, the route soon turns steeply uphill and works through the residential areas on the hillside. Thus we avoid the narrow debris-strewn shoulder on WA-3, which is a dangerous place to lose a water bottle or get a flat. Fear not: you will not have to ride these hills at the finish. The inbound side of WA-3 is much safer, although still debris-strewn.
Old Belfair Valley Rd sets the tone for the rest of the ride: rural, usually quiet, and hilly. In Belfair you can make a pit stop at the Shell convenience store.
These days Belfair is almost a pleasant place to ride a bike. Highway 3 has a bike lane!
Outside Belfair the route turns onto WA-108. 108 is not as peaceful as in former years. Expect a fair amount of traffic.
The first control comes in Union. Sadly the old Union Store is out of business. The control is across the street at Union City Market in the marina building. There are nice restrooms.
From the control make a U-turn, then find your lowest gear for the climb up McReavy Rd. This is a good foretaste of what you will face on PBP entering some of the medieval towns perched on hilltops, although without cobbles.
McCreavy lets us avoid the long noisy climb on 101. There is still a short stint on 101 before turning onto Dayton Airport Rd.
Most people should not need to stop at the Dayton Store, but it is an option if you miscalculated water or food. There are no restrooms.
You should load up on water and food at the Matlock Store, 57 mi / 91 km. The store has a nice restroom. The next supplies are 42 mi / 68 km away at Prairie Mart.
The next miles until turning onto US-101 at 152 km are some of the loveliest on the route, as we pass through deep forest, crossing from one river drainage to the next on steep and winding roads. On paper this is the most challenging segment of the route.
Early in this section we encounter Cougar Smith Rd with four kilometers of light gravel beginning after the bridge across the west fork of the Satsop River. The transition at the end of the bridge is rough; do mind the danger instruction! Cougar Smith has been recently graveled. The good news is all of the potholes we saw on our Fleche have been filled. The gravel is only deep off the sides. Traffic has swept most of the gravel off the road, leaving behind a sparse scattering that will annoy but not seriously impede those riding skinny tires. The grade reaches 12-16%. I walked the steep part. It was hardly slower than riding and gave my legs some relief.
Back on pavement, the highest elevation on the ride, 660 ft, is soon reached followed by a splendid downhill. Alas, starting from such modest altitude, visions of coasting to the coast are soon dashed and we must hump over innumerable humps to the next control at Humptulips. Fill up on supplies here. The store charges 45¢ to use a credit card.
The run to Copalis Crossing is a pleasantly zoomy, nearly steady downhill. You will encounter a couple of small bumps with noticeable grades on the way to Pacific Beach.
At 200 km, Pacific Beach is the halfway point. You & I Market has an Asian grill in back, which closes at 7:30 pm. The control is open. The Schooner Pub and Surf House Cafe are options if you want a sit-down meal. (Sitting at You & I meant sitting on the floor. Worked for us.) Seagate Restaurant and Lounge is a dive bar with pizza and bar food that was really nice to us on the fleche. It is off-route a bit more than a kilometer north on WA-109.
Leaving Pacific Beach you will cycle through scenic coastal forest that just may distract you from the crushing difficulty of the climbs as the road winds through deep ravines. Survive to Copalis Beach and you are rewarded with a pleasant flat run to the next control at the Chevron in Ocean Shores (postal address Hoquiam).
On the way to Hoquiam there are several bridges with raised curbs/sidewalks that appear abruptly in the shoulder. I found the curbs difficult to see at night. Be on the lookout as you approach bridges. These hazards are not noted on the route sheet.
Approaching Hoquiam we turn off the highway, visit an information control to keep everyone honest, and cruise through a residential area of Hoquiam.
From Hoquiam to Aberdeen to Cosmopolis we must cross two evil bridges. The Hoquiam bridge explicitly bans bicycles from the vehicle lanes. Trust me, you don’t want to be on the road! From 10th St turn onto the sidewalk on the far side of the road. The sidewalk/channel becomes pretty narrow. I chose to walk across. Please walk if you are at all nervous.
The Aberdeen-Cosmopolis bridge has a pedestrian ramp up to the bridge. Approaching, stay right on H St, do not go up the vehicle ramp. The ped ramp is right underneath the second overpass. The ramp has a very tight hairpin turn. Tandems and recumbents may need to dismount. I found the sidewalk on the bridge dicey. So again, walk if you are uncomfortable.
The control in Cosmopolis is a 7-Eleven. At night it did not have a good vibe. I am keeping it as the control since it is open 24 hours. The control is open; you may use the 76 station just before the 7-Eleven if you prefer.
From Cushing St in Cosmopolis you must find the bike trail on the right. The trail is not signed. It should be plenty obvious in daytime. At night, it is inconveniently located in deep shadow between two street lights.
The next supplies are available about 12 miles away at the Chevron in Montesano. This is a pleasant, clean, well-kept store! Stock up here for your passage through the Goose Prairie wilderness. The next certain supplies are at Twin Totems, 42 mi/ 67 km away. Faster riders will be able to resupply at the Dayton Store, which closes at 9 pm.
Just before dawn our GPS’s called for a right turn into a hillside. Our intended road was decommissioned, blocked by an enormous berm. I was too foggy to know what to do. In fact, I kept riding straight since no turn was possible. Then I realized Kate had turned around. She had sensibly consulted her Elemnt and saw there was a connection around the closed road. This defect in the route is now corrected.
Twin Totems is the penultimate control. For many, it will be the last supply stop before the finish – Belfair closes between midnight and 5 am.
From Twin Totems we return to Union and then substantially retrace the outbound route to the finish.
After the turn from Sam Christoferson Ave onto WA-3 stay in the left lane to go up the ramp to WA-3. The shoulder is filthy with debris; take care.
Entering Bremerton, there are two places on WA-304/Callow Ave where you must move left to avoid forced right turns.
Again departing from our traditional route on Burwell and its intemperate drivers, we cross Burwell and turn right on 6th St. Then we dodge onto 5th St and enjoy a relaxed (although not flat) run to the finish. After two right turns you will fetch up at the finish, the Fairfield Inn & Suites on 4th St.
If the hotel allows us, we will have an SIR Control sign out front with a note telling you which room to come to for the finish.