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Debating on sitting this one out…

I already bought my 2023 ticket but I am debating refunding it and sitting this one out. I’ve done 2 RAGBRAIs solo (2020 and 2022). Veteran riders always tell me RAGBRAI is just not the same as it was back in the day and even I saw a significant decline between my 2020 and 2022 rides.

My main issue with 2022 was how expensive it had gotten. In 2020 I could easily find an egg burrito for $4-5 and it was huge. In 2022, multiple vendors were selling egg burritos for $15-20 and they weren’t even good. I remember paying $12 for a hamburger and it was worse than a McDonalds hamburger. Un-melted cheese, mediocre meat paddy, etc. There were a few really good stops but they were hard to find and luck of the draw. At the end I spend nearly 3 times more than I did in 2020 and felt it wasn’t worth the cost.

Another issue is the task of taking work off means this trip has hidden costs. In my case I need to take 5 days of work off, so ultimately throwing away around $800 of income plus the registration and cost of RAGBRAI itself. In 2022, after getting home and doing the math, I felt it was not worth it. I had already done RAGBRAI once at that point, and RAGBRAI #2 was more of the same with much much higher costs. By the end I was totally burnt out and remember telling my friend who picked me up “Not doing this again unless you go with next year, twice was enough”.

Yet here I am, feeling like I want to do it again, but knowing it just won’t be as great as my first RAGBRAI, and probably even more expensive than 2022. Anyone else debating sitting this one out?

33 Replies

Joseph Schlau, February 22, 2023 at 5:22 pm

2020 there was no Ragbrai. Covid-19.

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direwolf, February 22, 2023 at 8:32 pm

My Sweetie and I have only missed riding RAGBRAI twice since 1990 – one for knee replacement, and one because it was called off d/t covid. One attraction for us is that, knowing the chips will be down in July, we get out and ride on cold rainy days in March and April. (We abhor riding indoors.)

One trend we have noticed is the growing predominance of charters, specifically big corporate charters. Folks pay good money for the comforts and conveniences of charters, and are quick to vacate the eclectic social milieu in overnight communities, in order to partake of charters’ offerings. I guess that could hinder the search for comradery by a solo rider.

On the other hand, we folks who ride self-contained find comradery wherever we go. Call it “shared experience (or the need for a spoke wrench). A few years ago, in Knoxville, we had trouble finding a suitable place to camp, were thinking of riding up the route a town or two. A raggedy bunch of baggers about half our age pulled up, saw us looking at a map, and directed us to a beautiful shady quiet nook on the grounds of the VA hospital. We stayed up late with them, maybe sipped a beverage or two.

So, Ben Q: I hope you decide to give RAGBRAI another look, and are able to persuade your friend to join up. Bolt on some racks, carry your gear. You’ll have friends out there.

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Joseph Schlau, February 23, 2023 at 8:47 am

DW, all good points. It sounds like Q has already decided to tap out and is looking for someone to give him that final push. I’m not that person.

While I understand the balance one has to strike between work and play, there is that saying that is frequently quoted. “No one on their deathbed ever says Wow, I wish I had worked more”

I as well as you know as self supported riders, that food choices are not limited to the itinerant merchants on the roadside selling a PBJ for $8.

Sometimes going off route a couple of blocks to the local Piggly Wiggly or that local restaurant opens up unlimited food options at a fraction of the cost.

You gotta get on google map and scout out the options ahead of time. Many times the veteran and church organizations put out quite a spread at reasonable cost.

This year every day ends in a larger city with greater choices for both breakfast and dinner. For me it going to be a question of where to go not if there is anything.

But Q, if you wait a decade or two before your income and sense of adventure increase, you may, in the interim, one day leave the doctor’s office with that diagnosis from hell. Too late for a redo.

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garywilk, February 23, 2023 at 10:50 am

Agree 100% that things have gotten expensive and not as good. 2022 seemed to be much worse on this than other years. It seems like they are way more interested in making money. Several of the good old venders were gone because they charge them too much which they now pass the costs onto the riders. Beers and brats went from $5 to $8 unless you can find a local group selling them. I know the towns were small last year but finding a church or other group for dinner was not easy and it was usually just a low bar spaghetti. Did find one good church with good German food so they were out there but you had to hunt. With the larger cities this year, I think finding local food will be much better and less costly like you mentioned. Should be a good variety of churches, restaurants, bars and other places serving food so hope you make it and hopefully the organizers notice this and hope they start to charge the venders a bit less in the future or allow locals to participate more with little to no fees.

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Rob Fuller, February 23, 2023 at 11:49 am

Good points Joseph. We are mapping grocery stores for daily fruit, vegetables, and dairy. We will pack nightly fiber and protein in our duffle bags and replenish in Des Moines. Our budget limits our traditional stops to only once in the week at Mr. Pork Chop (probably split one chop), Beekman’s (definitely enough for two), and a beer garden stop on the Century Day. We are hoping Chris Cakes will be “all you can eat”.

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Mike Murphy, February 23, 2023 at 3:59 pm

I have done Ragbrai 11 times with my first being in 2008, I am looking forward to this year and the fact that its the 50th ride I believe it will be special. I understand your concern about the second ride not being as special as the 1st ride for you, I have the same feeling. My first ride will always be my favorite and most memorable. The reason I enjoy going back every year possible is that it gives me a chance to enjoy the basic pleasures of Ragbrai….the people and places of Iowa. I understand that the costs of things have gone up on Ragbrai, its been a topic on this forum for the last 15 years. I am fortunate to be able to budget enough to ensure that I can enjoy myself the entire week and not worry if I spent 50 or 75 more dollars this year than last. It’s for one week……treat yourself and don’t worry about the brat costing $8 rather than $6……it’s two dollars and it’s for one week!!!!!! It is one of my favorite weeks of the year and I can’t wait to spend some money in the great towns of Iowa.

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ESchiers, February 24, 2023 at 7:19 pm

Direwolf- I’ve been one of those Charter users. Your description of baggers is the main reason I’m doing things differently this year. Hope to see you out there.

Ben- I’ve ridden for 5 years, didn’t ride in 2022 but I was there in 2021 and felt a difference. I marked that up to the Register’s turmoil, Covid canceling 2020, and the virgin RAGBRAI staff. I vowed not to return. However, here I am- signed up, reading the forums, and looking forward to July. I guess you have to look at your own expenses and what you believe is a fair market value. I feel RAGBRAI is about as budget-friendly as can be found. $200 gets you a week of entertainment, safety, SAG, and protected biking. Someone has planned the route for a 500-mile journey and prepared places to camp, shower, eat, and Kybo. Food costs are always high when there’s a captive group. Do a bit of pre-ride research and you’ll find hometown goodness at a reasonable price one block off the main street.
The one thing that is concerning is the number of riders that will be on the roads. Hopefully, RAGBRAI is doubling its resources (Kybos, camping space, water access) because it’s going to be twice as busy. I’m betting they have considering a majority of the overnight towns have larger populations and more resources.
I hope you make it out to the week in the corn, but if not, I certainly understand that change is not always acceptable.

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LawnchairMan, February 24, 2023 at 11:11 pm

Ben,
I too have questioned the value I get at current Ragbrai’s. Are prices going up due to inflation, or just because sellers get away with it? I was disappointed last year in not getting a hard copy participant guide. That means Ragbrai’s costs are lower, yet we still pay more for registration. VIP parking in Lansing was $125. That’s outrageous price gouging! I will never Ragbrai there again. Food prices were higher with less variety, but as others did, I took advantage of local groceries. Will there come a point where the costs outweigh the enjoyment? Perhaps. But I’m going this year.
I am hoping that some of the extra costs are due to Covid recovery. I am hoping that costs will ease a bit soon. Of course, I doubt this year will show it because of the 50th anniversary. With higher numbers, vendors can get away with higher prices. What the market will bear, right?
I had considered sitting this year out too, but some local club riders asked me to join them. That means I will save a lot in shared travel expenses. That doesn’t mean that I like the higher Ragbrai prices.

Each year is different. I won’t forget my first in 2007, but my favorite was in 2018. I look forward to an even better year. I hope you too have your best ride still to come.

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direwolf, February 24, 2023 at 11:35 pm

I respect charters and their subscribers. They ride the ride, appear to make the most of their experiences. I only wanted to make the point that charter subscribers tend to coalesce back to their group, for good reasons, lessening the opportunities for a solo rider to make an enduring social connection.

In my early days of riding self-contained I’d see a bunch of baggers sitting in the shade. I’d pull in, wanting to hear their stories. In those days I thought my name was “Need a beer?” I did my best to stave off a contact high, emanating from a cornfield nearby , but often remounted, craving brownies and cookies and …

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Rob Fuller, February 25, 2023 at 1:06 pm

Ben, reboot, reset, get back to your RAGBRAI roots. Its all still there but is harder to find.

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Joe Chavis, February 26, 2023 at 9:06 pm

Interesting. Are you seeking permission to not ride OR looking for justification? The ride is an event. If you can not buy a burger, stop at a Caseys and have some roller food. I don’t get your angst. It’s a vacation… you have a job with no vacation time? You need a different job. Please sit this one out. I’d rather ride with 999,999 people who wanna be there anywho. If you wanna ride .. ride if you don’t NOBODY really cares. Jes’ keepin’ it real. lmbao

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Niles, February 26, 2023 at 9:37 pm

I understand what Ben feels. It’s unfortunate that he only rode on 2021 and 2022. In my last opinion, those are the two of the worst in the recent years because of the pandemic, (perhaps) RAGBRAI personnel change and the inflation.

For me and my group, we have been enjoying the Iowa hospitality from our host families and various hosting organizations (churches, country clubs, companies, ….) for the past 30+ years. But the individual host families are just so special to give us more special personalized memories. Because the special occasion of the last two years, we have to stay less nights with our host families.

And yeah, the inflation and less vendor participation do have a negative impacts. And the absence of some of the familiar names do take away some of the feelings which draw us back year after year.

Let’s hope this is the year to return to normalcy more.

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forrestfortcollins@yahoo.com, February 27, 2023 at 2:14 pm

I enjoy this conversation and I’m glad Ben posted this; I’m learning from it. If I were bothered by it, I would just move on here in this friendly forum.

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tcoffman, February 27, 2023 at 3:45 pm

I will be attending for the first time since ’86. You don’t want to miss this one.

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WILLLIKESJAVA, February 28, 2023 at 1:00 pm

I haven’t been since 2019, no way in the world I’m passing on the 50 Anniversary.

I have seen some ridonkulous prices before, but we always are looking for the VFW, American Legion, local restaurants, churches, or even just a slice of pizza at the Casey’s or Kum & Go; usually can find some decent prices at those places.

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