Charter Options- Need Experienced Opinions ASAP! Thanks!!!

I am in my early’s 50’s and will have a group of 6 riders (Iowa, Georgia and Colorado) who love to socialize, eat anything fun, drink alcohol, relax and enjoy everything about RAGBRAI! 4 of them are virgins this year. I would like the charter to have a mix of Iowans and out-of-staters!!!

My friend and I loved the convenience of Pork Belly Ventures last year but would like to try a smaller charter this year as we did not feel we utilized the entertainment or provided meals and our tent was just too small for 2 people with 4 duffles so getting 2 tents this year is just a lot of extra $.

Unfortunately, there is no other charter that offers free beer and all of the amenities we liked so I would like opinions on the following charter options that we are considering so we can hopefully be able to make a good choice! If there are others, you feel we should be checking out, please let us know but these seem like the top choices given price and amenities.

BRANCEL CHARTERS Approx 500 riders
Pros: Has lots of great reviews, great beverage and beer selection, mid week laundry service, morning coffee and hot shower truck for a fee
Cons: Rental tent size same as PBV with NO tent set-up/take-down and NO luggage service, beverages and snacks for a fee

PADRE’S CYCLE INN Unsure rider #’s for this group? anyone know?
Pros: Big stand-up tent and air mattress set-up/take-down and luggage service, dedicated kabob’s, morning coffee, snacks and cold non-alcoholic beverages and shower towels are provided!
Cons: NO hot showers (how far does that mean I will have to travel?)
Not many reviews and unsure about mid-week laundry

BUBBA’S PAMPERED PEDALERS 250 riders
Pros: Big stand-up tent and air mattress set-up/take-down and luggage service, dedicated kybo’s, morning coffee, snacks and cold non-alcoholic beverages and shower towels are provided!
Cons: NO hot showers (how far does that mean I will have to travel?)
Unsure about beverages or snacks. 30 lb weight limit per bag
Not many reviews and unsure about mid-week laundry

LOST AND FOUND ADVENTURES Approx 120 riders
Would this be too small of a group?
Pros: Big tent and camping cot set-up/take-down, 3 items free each day (snack or beverages)
Cons: NO hot showers (only hanging bag type), NO shower towels, NO luggage service, NO mid-week laundry, NO dedicated kabob’s

THANKS FOR YOUR HELP!!!

9 Replies

Jim Kuhn, May 2, 2017 at 6:27 am

I have used the OOS charter for 13 years and this will be my 14th. They provide a great service for the $$. They do a great job of getting great camping area and have a great staff that can help when ever you need some. If you have any questions give me a call. Jim 765-265-5870

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genefruit, May 2, 2017 at 7:53 am

BUBBA’S PAMPERED PEDALERS 250 riders
Pros: Big stand-up tent and air mattress set-up/take-down and luggage service, dedicated kybo’s, morning coffee, snacks and cold non-alcoholic beverages and shower towels are provided!
Cons: NO hot showers (how far does that mean I will have to travel?)
Unsure about beverages or snacks. 30 lb weight limit per bag
Not many reviews and unsure about mid-week laundry

This will be my third year using Bubba’s and I’m pleased with their service. Bubba and his team are nice folks and have been friendly and helpful, so I keep using them. I’ll attempt to address the cons you’ve expressed:

As you note in the pros, there are non-alcoholic beverages and snacks provided. Coffee typically isn’t ready until 6am, which may be an issue if you’re an early rider.

While there are no showers as part of the package, there are always shower trucks or local schools with showers within a half mile. Often these services run golf cart shuttles as transportation. Furthermore, if you know where PBV is located that day, travel to their site and pay for a shower ($6) if you have a shower truck preference.

2 bags w/30lb limit per bag – yes, that is the restriction. I’ve not experienced an issue with this, as I guess I pack relatively light. I bring two sets of clothes per day and still haven’t carried 30lbs in my bag and I still would have the capability to bring a second bag.

No mid week laundry service – yes, that is correct. Noted earlier, I have fresh clothes for each day. I wash it all when I get back home.

I expect PBV’s charging station is better than Bubba’s but I don’t have experience. I have a dynamo hub and battery packs that provide ample power for my needs for the week.

Bubba’s costs considerably less the PBV with most of the same amenities. The “free” items you mention come at a higher charter price. I’ve considered using PBV but for what I’m looking for, I don’t think the extra costs are worth it.

FWIW, I also used Padre’s on the annual KATY ride in Missouri. Service was also good. Their shuttle transportation is based out of St Louis rather than the end town, which led me to choosing Bubba’s.

Good luck on your decision and if you have any follow-up questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

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KenH, May 2, 2017 at 8:10 am

To be honest from your description of what you would like to have from your RAGBRAI experience you sound like PBV people to me! I know they are “expensive” but that is a fair price for the level of service they provide. I hear good reports on Bubbas and Brancel too and I can’t recall hearing anything bad about the others on your list so I think that any of the ones you are considering are worth considering. I think Brancel and Bubbas are both in the same league as PBV price and service wise, I don’t know about the other two.

The one time I did this ride with a charter was last year and I used the Riverbend Club/Charter. They are on the opposite end of the spectrum from your list: very affordable and I don’t think they were much over 100 riders, if that, and that was not a problem at all. I was 100% satisfied with their efforts on my behalf and they did everything I wanted them to do but what I wanted was a lot less that what you want! I had to bring and setup/teardown my own tent for example and rather than finding that to be a chore it became a comforting part of the rhythm of life for the week. Showers were never hard to find and they were nice hot showers. Some in schools, YMCAs, aquatic centers, some in commercial shower trucks.

In other words, if you were to choose to go with one of the least expensive charters because some in your group need to save money you will certainly have a different sort of experience from being pampered by PBV and the like but you will find it to be a grand experience all the same. And here’s a hint: that “free” beer PBV gave you?, yeah, you paid for that! There’s no free beer on RAGBRAI but there are many fine beers to be had beyond the ones that PBV chooses for you, not that PBV’s choices are bad.

Talk it over with your group and make the decision that fits everyone’s budget and expectations. RAGBRAI is going to be great no matter how you do it!

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trek2300, May 2, 2017 at 10:29 am

As previously noted, you get what you pay for on charters. The bag drag, (or bag roll) every morning and afternoon is a hassle but it isn’t a deal breaker and I’m on the far side of 60. Additionally, you can buy two inexpensive tents that will hold as many bags as you need.

Most riders have great experiences with all the charters. I’ve used Brancel for years. But you need to jump on your charter and transport now!

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Luv 2 Ski, May 2, 2017 at 11:05 am

One question are you willing to set up your own tent? If not your options are limited to PBV and Bubba’s based on your list. I personally like having my own tent and like to set it up where I want to. I am in my late 50’s and probably will feel the same when I am 70. I do agree that having a larger tent is a BIG bonus. For one person I have used a Eureka Sunrise 8X8, for 2 I use a Big Agnus Big House 6. Being able to stand up in your tent is very nice. I probably will take the Big Agnus from now one even if it is just me.

I have used Brancel and they are great. The cost to buy snacks and drinks at the end of the day is minimal. I do not see that as a con. They have shower trucks very close each day. Yes you have to pay but not a big deal for me. Laundry service is a big bonus for me. Less clothes needed for the entire week.

As for the other charters I have not used them but each amenity comes at a cost and only you can decide what amenity/benefit do you need and at what cost.

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Mark Smith-Lossiah, May 2, 2017 at 12:47 pm

We have used Brancel before and were very happy. My brother-in-law has used them 10-15 times. They do not set up your tent but they do haul all of your luggage and tent, which you load into the truck in the morning.

They are very friendly and have always returned our emails within 24 hours.

The snacks and beverages were fairly priced.

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Davetakushi, May 11, 2017 at 7:52 pm

We used Padre’s Cycle Inn two years straight. We loved it so much, we bought it! We kept the business model and made some slight improvements, which, from our perspective as CYCLISTS, we thought were needed to perfect the element of FULL-SERVICE CAMPING for cyclists! We also cap our group at 80 riders, which adds to the personal feel and keeps you from being just a number. We are a family-owned charter offering tents, air mattresses, chairs, shaded relaxation area, charging stations, daily towel, unlimited snacks, refreshments, coffee, Gatorade, and more! And we have our own KYBOs! No, we don’t bring a shower truck, but we go up every May and ensure that you will be in walking distance to showers (If not, we coordinate a shuttle to pick you up and take you to the showers!). We don’t offer food; you are on RAGBRAI! Enjoy the food along the way while contributing to each small town’s opportunity to bring revenue to their towns. The downside to Padre’s is we are almost SOLD OUT and it’s not even mid-May! So get signed up with us ASAP. Check out the testimonials on our website, padrescycleinn.com.

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GORDON BROWN, May 12, 2017 at 6:37 am

I’ve used Padres one time and love it because of the small group feel. You get a sense of familiarity with the group in quick order and learn a lot about each other. From bike racks, to shower towels, to awesome sites (since they are smaller they get themselves tucked into some of the coolest spots) to the top notch equipment and attention to CLIENT’S needs. Their crew boss, Dawn, works the crew with a smile. The group that introduced me to Padres has been using them for some time. I’m booked with them again and look forward to seeing new faces and some of the old faces from last year.

If you want to drink in camp, buy a bottle or a sixer or more of your beverage of choice. There is an adult bev cooler. I contribute with the mindset that all are welcome to drink anything I put in there.
Hope to see you there.
Gordon, Kansas City

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AlwaysaHawkeye, May 22, 2017 at 8:57 pm

Thanks everyone for your helpful responses!
We decided to book with Padres’s Cycle Inn and are VERY excited for our adventure! We like that their group is a little less than 100 riders, that they offer tent set-up and take-down AND include air mattresses. They include a lot of little extras that I am hopeful will make them our favorite. I’m planning on bringing some brews from Georgia to share with the group and look forward to another year riding in the corn.
I hope everyone has an awesome RAGBRAI experience!!!

Always A Hawkeye
Kathy Flagg
Hometown: Shenandoah, IA Class of 1983
University of Iowa Nursing School Class of 1988
Current Location: Milton, GA

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