What strategies/resources does your group use to arrange a stay with a host in overnight towns?
Specifically, for a group of 20 to 30 riders in search of a host lawn that can accommodate a dozen or two tents, what is the best way to locate potential resident hosts (short of having local connections in the town)? I’ve seen the links on host community web sites, but I was just curious to know what works best for you.
One thing that I have found helpful is to ride through to the next town. Because its the night before Ragbrai hits them they are more than happy to find you a place to camp because you are still somewhat of a novelty. You also have first dibs on all services.
Once you get set up you can always drive back to the overnight town and celebrate because the road hasnt been shut down yet.It alo makes for a uch quieter venue to sleep and this year I found that very important.
As a newbie team, we were very curious about this. We ended up in host homes in every town but SC where we did not seek one. We had a very quick host home in CR when we started looking around and talking to other riders. We asked our host families how they choose guests when contacted by the city.
Some want self contained. We had a small RV and three tents.
They said the overriding concern to them when they chose was maturity. Some want to interact, some don’t. Our Lake View hosts spent all evening with us and fed us the best food, but they were irritated with the one group that tossed beer cans all over and the other that never emerged from their RV.
We were 8 women. We drank a few beers, that is it. Our Alamose host home partied like rock stars and set up a great dinner. In Cherokee some drunk broke in our host home at two am wanting a place to stay. We took pics of him passed out on the lawn when we left at six thirty am.
Our host families were fantastic even the folks we did not see much and the guy who had a play that night. We also took up a gift bag for each with swag from our state-local honey, BBQ sauce, Bass Pro stuff, local jelly, a a nice beaded handle spoon done by friend etc as a thank you. My other piece of newbie advice is to take out your own trash (unless they offer) and to leave the spot better than you found it.
They said the overriding concern to them when they chose was maturity. . . .
Thanks for the response, Elizabeth. Do I understand that your group went in search of a host after arriving in the overnight town?
In the past, our group has relied on serendipity and the generosity of Iowans. We’d simply roll into town and see what the community offered. We’ve ended up with some pretty fantastic experiences that way, but there have also been days when we’ve ended up in the general camping area next to giant RV’s with generators roaring all night long next to our tents. For 2013 I thought I’d see how it goes to make arrangements in advance with host families.
Our group includes jugglers and unicyclists. Often we head into town at night to perform on street corners, but we also entertain our host families (or anyone else who happens to be nearby) with “shows” in camp. (The jugglers in the group always seem to have the clubs close at hand.) Like you, though, we’ve also had hosts that are rarely seen outside the house.
I like the idea of a special memento to be given to host family (maybe I could bring along a bunch of my Vermont maple syrup . . .) and your advice about being extra careful and respectful of the host’s property is especially important.
I’m sure that there are all too many drunks and otherwise immature folks who have irresponsibly generated bad feelings with the locals so we have to be sure that there are enough of the positives to balance those bad experiences.
Will you be looking for hosts in advance for 2013 (assuming that your group will be attending the ride again)? If so, is your plan to channel requests through the host town RAGBRAI organizers?
With the uniqueness of your group, if you apply to the host communites, I am sure some family will snap you up quickly. You just need to apply after May 1.
We have a core group from Iowa who have friend/relatives across the state. If not we check work resources. ie HyVee, hospitals, etc. If someone works at a place that has other facilities in that town, we check with those businesses.
Always leave the place as cleaner or clean as when you got there and if you go into a house, take your shoes off at the door.
You might be surprised how many hosts you can find just by talking with people where you live. We got 2 of our host families this year by talking to people in Texas. Once it was determined they had relatives in Iowa the subject of where came up and arrangements were made within a couple of days.
One other way is try to think of what groups your team members might belong to. Are they postal, UPS, FedEx workers? Do they belong to a civic organization such as Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, etc.? How about some of them being business and belong to the Chamber of Commerce? Maybe they have a unique occupation that pretty much exists in every town. Think of where they work, CVS, Walgreens, WalMart, etc.
Don’t be shy about asking people. The worst that can happen is they say no.
And I hate to admit it but we’ve never had what I would consider to be a real good host family when applying through the RAGBRAI committees.
And finally if you don’t have hosts setup before you arrive in Iowa, network all week long with the people you meet and worst case scenario make sure your driver/support start knocking on doors when they arrive in town. We had Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday arranged before we left and ended up with a host every night. It’s not difficult, but does require a little bit of persistence on the part of your support people some times.
Good thread you have started Kevin. Persistence yield results, you and the team members gotta explore all the possible connections, some great advice by the previous posters. We had a wonderful home stay in Charles City a couple of years ago obtained by me emailing my son in Texas with our requirements, him in turn, emailing an old friend in Waterloo who emailed a friend in Charles City who asked his mom and dad if they could “take in” four riders. We were greeted at the door with a glass of Gentleman Jack and later offered the use of their new car to get us to the concert. A great stay in Charles City. We customarily leave our host family a thank you card signed by the team members with a gift certificate to the HyVee Grocery. I like your practice of leaving a jug of Vermont Maple Syrup better and I am sure the syrup will be far more memorable but we have to keep the weight down to a minimum our our panniers. Besides, what is a better gift, a jug of Vermont Maple Syrup or a jug of Iowa high fructose corn syrup????
Besides, what is a better gift, a jug of Vermont Maple Syrup or a jug of Iowa high fructose corn syrup????
Let’s just hope that the sugarin’ season is better in 2013 than it was this year. With unheard of 84 degree record high days in March the 2012 season was over all to quickly. Most of the Vermont maple producers (myself included) struggled to get in a 50% crop. Either way, I’d happily pass some on to Iowa host families!
To Gypsy Rose, we did not have a host in CR so two of our members were given information and direction by another rider that rode with them and heard they were looking for a yard for a small RV and tents. We lucked out,it was only two miles or so from all the action downtown. CR is the only night most of went to the concert, etc.
I don’t think zaney is the problem. Out host families did not want their property trashed out. Our bunch is a hiking group and have traveled together before and camped in people’s yards so we knew the routine as I believe most riders do. it. Be considerate.
I know if they had a ride where I live I would host. It is a great experience.
GR, I should have answered your other question. Our host families, except for Cedar Rapids, where thru the Ragbrai town process. Cherokee, Lake View, Webster City, Marshalltown and Alamosa. They did a great job in my opinion. Our Marshalltowtwon was way out, but our RV driver took us in to do the start.
We have asked past hosts if we could use them for a reference. I know our hosts in ansmosa will have nothing bad to say…well nothing good either since we were in the cemetary. We also put out a tip cup in the bathroom of any homewe are invited into. A follow up thank you card after the ride too.
Our group has mostly Iowa natives, so we are usually able to find someone in most of the communities. Our connection in Webster City fell through, so I posted an ad on Craigslist for temporary housing that one night. The ad went up about 4 weeks before the ride and we recieved only one call. That housing experience in Webster City was odd at best. Craigslist may be a viable option, just make sure you do a good job vetting out the host. We also leave a Team Photo Thank You Card and a monetary donation for use of water, electric, A/C, etc. Usually $5 a person.
I have never thought about Craig’s List. I have tried FaceBook with no success by friending a couple of local businesses in Sioux Center. No response from the businesses, Dordt College was the best deal in Sioux Center. Two person rooms with A/C, bed linens and towels was great.
I bet Browner has a good story about the “odd” night in Web City. Maybe a story best told on the kurb with a beverage?