Indianola Camping

What is the deal with Indianola requiring a two part application and processing fee for camping in the city?

29 Replies

T. Gap Woo, May 22, 2019 at 2:51 pm

Hello, sho531!

While I do not presume to speak for the powers-that-be in Indianola, I can offer some insight into the rationale that small towns in my neck of the woods use in situations like this.

While the labor to put on everything that Ragbrai entails may be (but not always is) volunteer, the supplies are not free (unless donated by some kind-hearted soul). Unless the overnight town wants to eat the expense, they have every right to charge for whatever they deem fit. Of course, they run the risk of killing the golden goose, so they usually won’t go hog-wild. Typically, they charge just enough to break even, knowing that overall the town will reap an economic windfall.

To put it in simpler terms, as Daddy Woo used to say, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Why do you think bar owners used to serve ‘free’ spicy lunches and then charge double the price for beer?”

Enjoy the ride, sho531, and think of how much good your contribution to the local economy is doing.

See you along the I-O-Way next year.


sho531, May 22, 2019 at 2:57 pm

The money isn’t enough for me to worry about. I was just surprised that they were going to restrict camping in town to those who had registered. If we hadn’t stumbled across the notice on their page we would have shown up on the 23rd and not had a place to stay. I wonder how many will be in that boat and how in the world they will be able to enforce it.


LawnchairMan, May 22, 2019 at 5:32 pm

Wait, sho531, are you saying you are going non-registered? If money is not a worry, then buy tags from someone and camp at the main campground.
Where did it say they restrict town camping to registered riders? I read their paid campground as just a more private area. Maybe we could have a camp fire and roast marshmallows.

The part that kills my interest for dorm rooms is that you have to have band numbers of all members of your group ahead of time. If you only have five members in your group you either have to pay the other slots or advertise for more people. That could take time an would be confusing. I would also not want to have to share one unisex bathroom with seven others. Unless there are multiple showers and potties.

I used a dorm in Waterloo I think. I just signed up and was assigned a random room. I had one roommate. But, it’s all moot to me. I prefer camping in my tent.

This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by LawnchairMan.


sho531, May 22, 2019 at 5:54 pm

Our group all has wristbands. I hope you are right but it isn’t how some of our group is reading it. The language and description can be interpreted to mean any camping in town. I’ve sent an inquiry on the Indianola host page and will post what they say if I get a response.


LawnchairMan, May 22, 2019 at 6:34 pm

If you click on the campground housing link on the ‘Nola website this is part of what it says, “We have more than enough camping available for all of the riders/non-riders at no cost.” It sounds like they have actual, optional camp grounds that cost extra.

Sorry I mis-intepreted your earlier statement in regard to you having tags or not. I’m pretty sure official riders will not have to pay extra to camp in the main campground or charter areas. I await the results of your inquiry.


jwsknk, May 23, 2019 at 7:51 am

It does sound confusing. Towns have done that for private housing for quite awhile. So that applying by July 8 and $5 is no surprise. The way they worded the other though. Do they mean that is for charters, teams/clubs that are to big or don’t want to stay in the main campground? The application and $5, if you use the Register main campground no charge?


sho531, May 23, 2019 at 7:56 am

My concern is that they are expecting registration even in the main campground. I’m hoping others are right. I sent another message/question through the town’s web page this morning requesting clarification.


LawnchairMan, May 23, 2019 at 8:56 am

It is weird the way they say, “if you would like to stay in the Indianola campgrounds”. A Google Map search for camping in the area gets me a sports complex, an RV park, and Lake Ahquabi Park. The latter has about 115 camp spots, so maybe they will shuttle us there???

It would help if Indianola completed their webpage. They have a Routes and Maps section that doesn’t work for me yet. Part of that is camps.

The charter I go with is camping at Buxton Park, just north of Simpson College. I think the charter would have notified us if there were to be an additional charge for camping in town.

Should be interesting.


hnschipper, May 23, 2019 at 2:38 pm

I agree, the wording on the website is confusing. Our group has never requested housing/camping in advance. We prefer to scope it out first. (We have a small group – only 5 people and prefer quiet camping.).

I’ve asked for clarification on Indianola RAGBRAI’s Facebook page.


Tricia Martin, May 24, 2019 at 4:53 pm

wording has been updated on the website: Riders that do not reserve campground space prior to arriving in Indianola will be placed in a campground area with no services. You will be required to use showers in another location for a fee. We hope you enjoy your evening with us!


Uncle Kraig, May 24, 2019 at 5:07 pm

Sooo, lets try and clarify. Every town has a main campground, where the RAGBRAI semi baggage trucks park. Typically, you ride up, get your bag, pitch your tent, sleep, get up in the morning put your bag on the semi and ride on to the next town, pretty straight forward.

In Indianola, the main campground is at the Middle School. So, to break this down to one simple question, do you need a reservation to ride up to the Middle School, get your bag, pitch your tent, sleep, get up in the morning and put your bag on the semi again?

Or, is it like years and towns past where as long as you have your wristband (and associated matching bag tag) you are good to go and do not need reservations to camp at the middle school. Thanks in advance!


hnschipper, May 24, 2019 at 5:42 pm

Having to reserve camping in order to have a campground with services goes against the spirit of RAGBRAI, in my opinion, and no other towns require this. What about the bikers who do not see those instructions? They automatically are placed in campgrounds with no services? Does no services mean no port a potties? What exactly does it mean?

This is starting out on the wrong foot, in my opinion, Indianola.


hnschipper, May 24, 2019 at 5:45 pm

Per the RAGBRAI website, this is what the fee covers: If my entry is drawn, what kind of services can I expect for my fee?

The fee provides daily baggage transportation, SAG wagon service, emergency medical service, camping areas, route markings, daily maps, wristband discounts, camping facilities, ten bicycle shops on the route and in the campgrounds to service your bike, access to long-term parking, bicycle shipping stations, free lost and found mailing service and great Iowa hospitality.

We shouldn’t have to pay an extra fee to reserve a camping spot. We’ve already paid for a camping spot.


hnschipper, May 24, 2019 at 5:55 pm

This is then wording on the Indianola website. It doesn’t appear to have been updated.

Welcome to Indianola! We look forward to meeting all of the Ragbrai riders. We have more than enough camping available for all of the riders/non-riders at no cost. Please complete this application if you would like to stay in the Indianola campgrounds. You will need the names and wristband numbers for all riders/nonriders on your team, team name, and team number to complete Part 1 of this campground housing request. Once you submit Part 1 of this application, you will receive an email with information and a link to Part 2 of the application. You will not be able to edit/add/change any of the information in Part 1 of the application upon submission. Part 2 of the application requires payment of a non-refundable $5 housing administrative fee. You will need a PayPal account to pay online. If you don’t have a PayPal account, please visit and set-up your free account. You must complete Part 1 & 2 before your application will be considered. We hope you enjoy your evening with us!


sho531, May 24, 2019 at 6:52 pm

There are a couple of different links to the campground information on their page. It appears that one of them, the one at the top of the page under riders, has been updated to the language quoted above.


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