I’ve ridden with Pork Belly and had a great experience. That is certainly a possibility again. I’d like to consider another charter for 2013. Has anyone personal experience with these: OOS, Lost and Found Adventures, Ron Oman? I don’t need a lot of pampering, I can set up my own tent, but, I’d enjoy a chair under a tent to keep me dry or out of the sun and maybe the opportunity to buy an adult beverage.
Havae used both OOS and Brancel. Both excellent, and I would recommend either. They don’t give you every bell & whistle that PBV does, but if you don’t want or need all that, the price is quite a bit lower.
Or you could try one of the local clubs around Fort Madison to see if they have openings for the ride. Fort Madison has Team Gnarley, Burlington has Bike Burlington, and Keokuk has The Keokuk Bike Club. I know they bus their people to the start town. You could park your vehicle in Fort Madison and or they should have options for getting back to your vehicle.
Try Bubbas Pampered Pedalers. I’ve never used them but I know they do a good job, not expensive, not a huge group.
Regarding PBV, I’ve used them many times. Except for the past couple of years, I used my own tent and frankly (with your own tent) the price was not that much more than the smaller charters. And now the base rate for PBV only requires you pay for two or three meals. So the price of all of them go up when you start adding in bus service on front/back end of the week, tent services, etc. so just remember they all get pricey as you add things, including PBV. And you gotta eat no matter who you use for a charter.
Another thing, I used PBV when they were smaller (say 300 folks) and in the intervening years and again in 2012 (when I think they had about 900 people). Frankly, there is not much difference between now and then to the average client of PBV. They have their services attended to like a well drilled army and there’s not any more waiting in line, etc. that with other charters. And I find that I hang around with about the same number of folks now as I did when PBV had only 300 (about 15 or so riders). And I’ve ridden other week long rides with other charter companies and I still wind up riding/socializing with about 15 or so folks.
And PBV is, if anything, lots more quiet than the DMR campgrounds and about the same as any other charter.
Point is, don’t listen to the negative about PBV. It’s like going to a big university – the size allows you to pick out your own crowd and pursue your own interests. I think with some of the small charters you stand a very good change of having to spend the week with some neighbors you don’t necessarily like and they are not that much cheaper.
And then there’s Tammy Pavitch, co-owner of PBV. She is sincerely one of the nicest people I have ever met. Memory sharp as a tack and she remembers you even if you have not been to RAGBRAI for a couple of years. Amazing. She should be the personnel director for a Fortune 500 company. And always happy, always smiling. She and her brother are the best.
Used Brancel for the first time last year and enjoyed it. Signed up to use them this year. They made everything from the loading up and bussing across Iowa, to finding their campsite every day easy and also had some nice extras. Entertainment one night and two nights for a little extra had dinner available. Every day had lots of free snacks out and beverages available for purchase. Very friendly and they understand the needs of Ragbrai riders.
I have gone with Padre’s Cycle Inn twice and really appreciuated the services. Padre and Bubba offer separate services but camp by each other. Great people and the price is reasonable. They also have a bus charter from St. Louis, Columkbia and Kansas City to and from RAGBRAI if you are near any of these cities.