Climbing: 4300 ft (RwGPS), 4900 ft (pre-ride gps)
The Populaire starts at Tacoma’s War Memorial Park. There is ample parking at the park and adjacent Park & Ride lot. The park does not have restrooms. A number of fast food restaurants and a gas station are nearby.
The ride starts with the spectacular crossing of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The projected cold weather should discourage tourists, but as always, be careful around pedestrians and other cyclists. The descent to the bridge, climb to its middle, descent and then final climb on the west side set the tone for the route: Up, down, up and down, up and down…. Easily adjustable clothing for temperature regulation is highly recommended. For the most part the route is on relatively quiet roads with pleasant scenery.
After a short cruise on the Cushman Trail the route descends into Gig Harbor, where the traffic circle that was under construction all summer at Stinson Ave is finished. Expect slow traffic and oblivious pedestrians in the downtown area.
A long ascent ensues culminating in a thrilling plunge to Olalla. The store here is closed but does have a chemical toilet available.
Climbing out of Olalla we take the longer route through a little neighborhood while the cars go up the shorter way. This bit has the steepest climbing on the route. There is a scenic spot near the top where you can pretend to take in the view while catching your breath. Once you’ve winched your way to the top you’ve got the ride in the bag. Now about the remaining 100 kms….
Seriously, if you decide to walk the climb on Banner Rd, do use the left side where you will not be hemmed in by a guard rail.
Banner Rd continues north arrow straight. Eventually it begins a “climbing descent” where you can make up some time. Approaching Southworth we weave through a little neighborhood to stay away from any ferry traffic.
The Southworth info control is at the Southworth Grocery. From there the route offers water views as it continues through Manchester and around the point to the next info control at the Waterman Pier. This is a pleasant, speedy section of the route.
Port Orchard comes next where the cue sheet points out a 7-Eleven for resupply. There are numerous cafes and coffee shops if you need a higher-class calorie and caffeine boost. The steady climb on Port Orchard Blvd returns us to the undulating highlands of the Kitsap Peninsula.
After the Fire Station 15 info control comes a fast downhill on Pine Rd where you must be ready to get on your brakes for the turn to Spruce Rd. Warning cues have been added for this and several other turns that are easy to miss.
At Wauna we turn left onto Hwy 302. Traffic may be heavy, be patient with the left turn.
After crossing the little bridge on 302 turn into the 76 gas station. What looks like a parking lot is actually Tyee Dr.
Tyee Dr shortly merges with Purdy Dr. At this point Purdy Dr is functionally a shoulderless onramp for WA-16. At least there are two lanes and most drivers should give you room. Relief comes in a kilometer with the turn onto Burnham Dr.
The route wanders south and west to the last info control at Kopachuck State Park, which has restrooms. Next we swing by the Arletta store on our way back to the Narrows Bridge.
The entrance to the Narrows Bridge trail is via a left turn on a blind right hand curve. Please be cautious.
The finish is at the Starbucks on 6th Ave in Tacoma, a few blocks past War Memorial Park.