Looking for some advice. My wife and I are considering RAGBRAI 2014 to ride with our kids, girl 8, boy 6, on our tandems. We’re strong riders, from Colorado, and the kids really enjoy riding the tandems. We routinely ride 30-35 miles, and the kids were able to do a 45 mile/4K ft of climbing ride last summer up in ski country. We’ve not done multi-day rides yet, but obviously would do so as part of training for RAGBRAI.
Our plan is to rent an RV and switch on/off as teams so the kids are riding every other day. My concerns:
1) How difficult is it to meet a support vehicle at the halfway point each day? The idea is that if the kid gets too tired, we stop at the halfway point and I (or my wife) will switch to a solo bike while the rest of the family goes to the next overnight town. Is that a viable strategy? I’m not sure if the kids can make an 80 mile day. I’m confident about 50-60.
2) I’d love to hear from anyone else who’s done this with 6-8 yr olds on the tandem. What was the hardest part?
3) The roads look pretty crowded. I’m confident in our bike-handling ability, but is it a hammerfest out there?
4) What are the most important things to consider when trying to do RAGBRAI with an RV?
1. the meeting towm/halfway town will be pretty crowded with vehicals. Some towns will direct them to parking, in others it is a free for all. Have the driver just park someplace and have a meeting spot like the library. Then you can head for the RV from there. Getting a cell phone call (s) through may be hit and miss, text apparently works better.
2. we had a 8 year old on the back of a tandem, shes done most of 3 now. hardest part probably the heat & humidity. She had thing like digital books to listen to on the bike.
3. Depending on the time of day, yes the roads can be crowded. You might come upon someone doing 10 mph, being passed by someone doing 15 while you are doing 18. Then that paceline of 3-30 people want by at 25. Sometimes you just have to be able to be patient and back off if needed. 4. Patience. line to get into town, lines to get into the campgrounds, lines to get out. Most camps won’t have hookups. will be in a school parking lot, county fairgrounds, any big open area away from tents. It’s the generator noise and fumes thing.
After the complete route is announced and the meeting towns are designated bring those towns up on Google maps and pick out your meeting spot, library, fire station, Casey’s Convenience store or a park off the main route…and then print the maps and place them in a waterproof plastic bag. You may or may not be able to drive to that spot and park, likely not. Plan on not being able to use your cell phones for meetings or tracking progress. Since there are four of you riding you can pick out some snazzy team name and register as a team and apply for a vehicle pass which entitles you to park in the RV park each afternoon. In the RV park there will be no shade, no electrical, no sewer, and no water hook ups. There will be new friends who are willing to share their experiences. And yes, Skunky is correct, the tough part of the ride will be the heat and humidity. Good luck.
Sandaltan and jw posted excellent advice. My additional input:
After the routes are posted, using a combination of google maps and the RAGBRAI rider AND support vehicle maps, you can usually figure out the path of the ride through town. Using that, you can select a pretty good meeting spot in town. That will not be where you park the RV, but our team crew brings a couple of lawn chairs and sits on the side of the road at the entry to town while waiting.
jw is spot on about the cell phones, we bought a set of those personal radios and that works great in town.
I might also suggest instead of one person riding solo for the rest of the day, let the other tandem pair ride from the meeting town to the next overnight town. Kids will really enjoy riding into the overnight town where more often than not there is a welcoming committee cheering you into their town.
The few people out there that like to hammer will not bother you as much as the people going ultra slow. If you are experienced enough to be riding tandems with kids, you know checking 6 before going around someone is crucial. A lot of people get tired and forget to do that as the day (heat) wears on.
For entertainment, bring swimwear! We have been pleasantly surprised with water parks the last couple of years. After a hot day, the kids (big and little) will enjoy it.
With the continual upgrading of existing cellular service, cell and txt communication is getting better in the western 1/2 of the state, where service was rather sparse just a few years ago. But I have yet to see any portable cell towers along any Ragbrai route that would ease the demand requirements of the large influx of people.
The cell providers, by FCC and FEMA requirements, are supposed to provide extra service capacity anywhere a large gathering of ppl is expected but for whatever reason (COST!) they don’t always do this, even though YOU PAY FOR IT every time you pay your cell service bill!
But you’d be happy to know cell service providers DID provide extra service to the tune of 26 portable towers at the inauguration of Barack Obama. Link:
Can’t speak for the other carriers, RAGBRAI Nation, but Verizon has COWs (Cells on Wheels; small trailers with cellular receivers) and COLTs (Cells on Light Trucks; similar but self-propelled) which they can deploy for emergency conditions and the like. As a rule they will *NOT* bring in a huge pre-fab windmill-like rig and erect that, so don’t waste your time and strain your eyesight looking for one.
The other thing is that cell towers receive the signal from your phone and then direct it into a conventional switching network — just like landlines do. They don’t bounce your signal from tower to tower across the country (you’re thinking of amateur radio relays). So portable cell sites would need to be located where? Someplace where they can patch into the network. And where might that be? Duh …. probably close to the existing towers — which are already tied into the network! So that might be why you don’t notice them quite so often.
That cell phone stuff is all Greek to me. When I had a real job and I questioned one of the ETs about how something functioned or failed to function they always said “don’t worry about it ST …. its magic”….so I quit asking them and quit worrying about it.
You colleague watered it down a little bit for you, ST — electronics actually run on “Magic Smoke”, not just magic. That is why when an electronic device eventually stops working you will generally — but not always — see a certain amount of smoke coming from the device. That is the “magic smoke” departing from the device.
Without the Magic Smoke, unfortunately, it will no longer be operable, and except in very rare circumstances where you can locate an upper-level wizard who is able to conjure up the magic smoke and reintroduce it to your gizmo, your only option is to purchase a new device with a fresh supply of magic smoke.
Rumor had it Beebs, that a couple of our ETs possessed magic smoke or maybe were in possession of some magic smoke … they said it was necessary in order to understand hexadecimal. Whatever hexadecimal is. Hey MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone!!
I have done RAGBRAI the last 6 years with my son who is now 11. We started on a tag-a-long and the third year upgraded to a tandem. We have ridden every mile of his 2nd – 5th including two centuries. Last year he graduated to his own bike and his sister took his spot behind me with mom driving support. Mom’s the reason we only did the last three days last year (and I was a little concerned with Ethan on his own for the first time but he did great). The kids have had a blast and loved every mile, pork chop, and ice cream stop. Ethan and I have so many stories and so many hills we talk about all the time, sometimes in our own language. The hardest thing is keeping them eating and drinking water but they know when I get my water bottle out they need theirs out too. We’ve done 100 degree 80 mile days with no problem like that day into Cherokee and Webster city a couple of years back. It’s no hammerfest. We go what we can. People pass us and we pass people. We stop when we want and we get there when we get there. I wish the rest of life were so simple.
We’ve never worried about meeting at the half way point. Let the driver get to the overnight and find a good spot. Finding them in the overnight can be difficult. It has only been in the last year or two that cell phones were worth having and even then it usually take a couple tries to get though. If at all possible look into hooking up with a team so you can ride the whole way with your family. Or maybe I’m the only one that can’t stand skipping even one mile.
The hardest part of having an RV is being happy with whatever spot your driver ends up with. I know I have given my mom and my wife too much grief for not enough shade, or too far from the showers, or no fresh ice. In the end I was grateful they were there for me. The driver has a tougher job than bikers – appreciate them.
My daughter did RAGBRAI on our tandem when she was 7 and again at 9 and 10. This year (assuming the route isn’t thru Southern Iowa) she’ll be on her own bike. Some things that have worked well for us:
Her first source for water while stoking was her camelback. She drank more often, staying hydrated and I didn’t have any potential wobbles as she was reaching for a water bottle. I had an extra bottle on the bike to refill her camelback if needed.
Bike speaker & ipod loaded with her play list (music, audio books and the like). We didn’t turn it on until after the meet up town. When she was tired and hot, that was a welcome afternoon boost.
Chillypads carried with us on the bike. We’ve soaked them in many a road side hose or tank of water.
We weren’t the first ones on the road in the morning. While we always had plenty of company on the route, the crowd wasn’t as tight leaving the overnight town and getting under way.
We took our time. If there was a dog or a horse or a cow or a pen of baby pigs, we were likely stopping and petting and talking with the farm family, 4H group, or high school sports team who was set up to provide the entertainment and hospitality. She is the stoker and rules the starts and stops.
Some nights we ate dinner in the last town out. Then all we had to do when we got to the overnight town was set up camp and take showers.
We always had a plan in case we got separated in a pass thru town. One of the first things we did after parking the bike was designate a spot for reconnection.
Our stoker pedals have toe stops on them to hold her feet in place even when tired. Great option for us, especially when she was younger.
Our tandem has a kick stand. It’s a bit of extra weight, but trying to find a wall space long enough for a tandem could prove to be very difficult in most pass thru towns.
We tandem ride with a trunk bag full of kid stuff – bubble gum, band aids, skittles and the like. It also provides space for any extra rain gear or arm warmers if needed, or space for any treasures picked up in a pass thru town.
RAGBRAI trips have been great memory makers for my daughter and me. I wish you the best as you make this decision.