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Logistics Questions From Newbies

We are a group of 12 friends coming from Colorado; all first time riders in RAGBRAI. We are pondering renting a 12 passenger van and a U-Haul trailer to transport bikes/luggage to Iowa, and then taking turns with 1 person SAGing each day with the van/trailer. Questions:

– Will it be a nightmare to get a 12 passenger van with a trailer into each overnight town? (we have visions of trailer hell)

– On the Saturday night before the ride starts, would it be practical to spend the night in Bellevue, Nebraska (20 miles away) in a motel – and then have the SAG van/trailer just drop everyone off in Glenwood to start the ride Sunday AM?

Any other insights?

Many thanks!

23 Replies

mlwalk, February 1, 2016 at 7:12 pm

Both of those ideas seem fine to me. I live in Omaha Bellevue and Glenwood is a quick shot down I29 so if that is the way you want to go you will be in Glenwood riding in no time.

As far as in and out of each town you will not have a problem with the van and trailer.

This all sound pretty good, just follow the support route and they will direct you. We have done everything from mini vans to 35 foot motor homes. You should be fine with your plan. Have a good ride.


RDaryl Daryl, February 1, 2016 at 9:01 pm

For first time riders, I suggest having the whole team drive into to Glenwood together on Saturday to get a feel for the magnitude of RAGBRAI and what each night of your week will be like.
-Seek a good camp spot
-Experience the Bike Expo
-Walk into town for food/beverage
Although this will be my 23rd RAGBRAI, it seems that every year I re-live the “jaw-dropping” awe and excitement of my first RAGBRAI as my team arrives in the starting town on Saturday.

As far as other insights, one of my favorite quotes comes from the Pork Belly Ventures Charter:
What’s the key to RAGBRAI? Not training. Not gear. Not money. The key to a successful RAGBRAI is attitude. Lower your expectations, dust off your sense of humor, and roll with it. Things will go right and things will go wrong. You’re going to have a great time.


OnYourLeft, February 1, 2016 at 9:31 pm

Thank you for the quick replies and great insights! Much appreciated! I think we’re feeling more comfortable with the van/trailer idea.


Amanda, February 1, 2016 at 9:48 pm

RAGBRAI will have a driver’s map that you can print out. Usually have it in July. Just follow that route and it will be fine!


KenH, February 2, 2016 at 8:04 am

There is nothing wrong with your plan. I would also suggest getting there early enough to spend some time in Glenwood on Saturday afternoon and evening. Hopefully you could leave the trailer at your motel and visit the start town expo and any other activities that interest you. It is part of the ride and at least a few of you would probably enjoy taking it in and if some don’t they can stay behind to guard the trailer!! Staying in a motel the first night is fine however, you’ll get all the camping experiences you want during the rest of the week.


jwsknk, February 2, 2016 at 8:11 am

and practice backing a van and trailer, see a lot of people who back up. Do get to the expo, some of the vendors are only there that Saturday


reddog1, February 2, 2016 at 11:37 am

I may have a few suggestions for you.
Been coming from Colorado for 25 years and we take an RV.
If you are close by we can go for a ride or something.
I live in Highlands Ranch.
TD reddog


ltyoungster, February 2, 2016 at 1:26 pm

My first RAGBRAI we did the RV with a group of newbies. Some parts of it were awesome and some parts needed to be polished over the week. The toughest part is getting the group back together at the end of the day. The driver should text the location to everyone in the group. Cell Phones can be hit or miss and a text is usually the most reliable. Since the driver and the cyclists will not be coming into town on the same route, trying to give directions can be tough. We have a tall portable flag pole that we put up each night to help the team find the van in the campground. Maybe your group will stick together all day but most groups are like herding cats.

Requesting home stays makes the logistics easier for a group. At least you will have an address to meet at and often the locals will let you use the showers or even feed you dinner.

You should set expectations for the driver. Will they meet the group at midday? Are they responsible for finding and holding enough turf for your entire group to set up tents? Are they supposed to have a cooler filled?


Bernard Schwartze, February 3, 2016 at 1:55 pm

First timer here too looking at overnighting in Omaha. Got any ideas where the tire dip site will be? On the creek running through town or back at the Misouri?


jwsknk, February 3, 2016 at 2:54 pm

Most of the time when we start in Glenwood we head out southwest and cross under I29 and get closer to the river and there has been a dip sit along there


Brian Wallenburg, February 3, 2016 at 7:29 pm

Don’t rely on cell phones only, especially this year. There are a larger number of overnight small towns with limited cell towers. It sounds like you will take turns driving the van, have the driver hop on their bike, find the route into town for bike and get an accurate set of directions to where camp is set up. Text this early in the day. Overnight towns get busy soon after lunch. …and then gets busier and busier until sunset. Have the driver text the physical address as well. The beginning town is always fun, usually a good band and by far the best expo. Arrive as early as possible. Glenwood is small and roads will be busy. Have the driver set up camp near showers and port-a-pots. High Schools, swimming pools and RAGBRAI central are usually good areas. Obviously the earlier the driver arrives in the next town, the better. Not RAGBRAI suggested, but you will see many “salmon” Bike riders that drove the vehicle to the next town and are now riding out against the bike traffic to meet the rest of their teem. If you do this, make sure you have a very loud bell on your bike. Everyone else that is riding into town is taking both lanes of traffic and not looking for you! I’m sure you’ll get lots more tips, train plenty, be prepared for desert heat, torrential downpours, riding against high winds and hills. It’s quite likely that you’ll see all of them during RAGBRAI. Have fun!


mootsman, February 4, 2016 at 7:00 am

As far as cell coverage in small towns in the past where voice and text are failing, I noticed good old email still works. A team dist-list would be a help for end-of-day meeting.

You are better off trying to get team “hosts” and use their yards. At the host set up your tents, a shower tent (for now each rider could use a sun shower for warm water) and the like. If you can get a contract to rent Kybos for the week (Iowa porta-potties) rather then use host restrooms. That would expand how many locals are willing to host you. With hosts you’d know the address to meet at in advance. Even without a host just agree on an address which could be the official RAGBRAI campsite & parking. Our team has 6 of the 7 hosts lined up already so start looking right away. But reach out to all friends for their Iowa contacts whether they are going on the trip or not. Even if those Iowa contacts are not in the overnight towns, many times they know someone who is. With so many small towns now would be a good time to start looking. Some hosts may be a few miles out of town.


OnYourLeft, February 4, 2016 at 9:46 pm

Many thanks for all your very insightful replies! Our team very much appreciates your input. I can’t believe we have to wait nearly 6 months to ride! Ready now!


Iceman, February 5, 2016 at 8:53 am

I think cell phone reception generally has – in the past – depended on your carrier. Still, no matter which carrier you use, it’s not worth buying a prepaid phone for the week if another carrier is reputed to have better coverage. The problem, as stated above, is that no matter which carrier you use, you’ll have 15,000 or so cell users in each overnight town (which, for the rest of the year, only has cell capacity for a thousand or so cell users).

So – best advice I’ve heard is to have a pre-set secondary meeting spot in each overnight town. The driver each day ought to set up all of your tents in the overnight town (or at least set out the bags to claim the spots – not as good IMO) and text – don’t call – the other riders with the location. This is especially important if you are using unreserved (general public) campgrounds.
And if they don’t text back to the driver for that day that they got the location text, the driver hops on his/her bike and goes to the secondary meeting spot.

Of course, if you have hooked up with a resident of the overnight town to use that person’s yard in which to camp, everyone should have the address. But it still helps to have a secondary spot anyway.


jwsknk, February 5, 2016 at 10:35 am

I remember back in the “old Days” the Register had message boards set up by their booth in the overnight town. The Message center was divided up alphabetically so your group would decide which letter the message would be under. I don’t know if they even put those up anymore.


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