More Newbie Questions

We are a group of 10 RAGBRAI newbies this year. A few questions that we haven’t found the answers to:

– All of us use clipless pedals. It sounds like we’ll do plenty of stopping/walking in the pass through towns. Do people typically carry a pair of sandals/shoes with them and switch out shoes as the day goes by?

– Do people typically bring sleeping bags or just a thermarest plus blanket/sheet? Sleeping bags sound very hot for the climate. (We are from the Rockies.)

– We have a SAG van that will be traveling with us. When the driver pulls into each overnight town, are they directed to an open camping area? On the town maps, we see lots of reserved spots for the charter services (i.e. PBV) – so we’re not sure where we’re supposed to open camp? Will we be able to pull the van close enough to drop off luggage/etc? Is there enough cell coverage for the driver to let the cyclists know where to land?

– Since we have the SAG van, would you recommend camp chairs?

Thank you! (and apologies if these questions have already been answered)

19 Replies

Brian Wallenburg, July 12, 2016 at 2:34 pm

– All of us use clipless pedals. It sounds like we’ll do plenty of stopping/walking in the pass through towns. Do people typically carry a pair of sandals/shoes with them and switch out shoes as the day goes by? Yes, that is not uncommon at all. You will see many a flip flop either secured to the bike or in a jersey pocket. Or…. for some clipless you can purchase covers to slip on.

– Do people typically bring sleeping bags or just a thermarest plus blanket/sheet? Sleeping bags sound very hot for the climate. (We are from the Rockies.) You will be amazed how cool it can get during the night. Bring more than a sheet and pack a stocking cap. Whatever is uncovered around 3:00 can get cold.

– We have a SAG van that will be traveling with us. When the driver pulls into each overnight town, are they directed to an open camping area? On the town maps, we see lots of reserved spots for the charter services (i.e. PBV) – so we’re not sure where we’re supposed to open camp? Will we be able to pull the van close enough to drop off luggage/etc? Is there enough cell coverage for the driver to let the cyclists know where to land? There are designated camping areas.
If your driver follows the vehicle route they should have no trouble. Overnight towns generally have a large number of volunteers. You will be able to camp right outside/near the vehicle. Cell phone coverage is sketchy at best. Especially in the small town areas. It’s always good to have a backup plan for communication or a place to meet. Some teams lay a path of stickers on the pavement to follow, others text the information as early as possible, yet others have a secondary meeting point at a certain time in the case there is no cell phone coverage. Give physical directions, crossroads and nearby landmarks.

– Since we have the SAG van, would you recommend camp chairs? Of course!

Thank you! (and apologies if these questions have already been answered)

#1161532

BillSpriggs, July 12, 2016 at 2:37 pm

-I’ve thought about bringing some sort of shoe/foot cover that would fit in a jersey pocket but never have. Most people seem to walk in their riding shoes.

– I have a sheet and a fleece sleeping bag liner. Looking at the long range for Des Moines the low temp all week is 70 degrees, a sleeping bag will be too warm, you might want to sleep on top.

-I’ve always use Pork Belly so I can’t help with the camping questions. I do see a lot of camp chairs, even at Pork Belly’s.

#1161533

RoyBoy, July 12, 2016 at 2:48 pm

Most of my team wear waterproof bike sandals with SPD pedals. But some do carry sandals or flipflops with them.
I had to break down and buy a thin sleeping bag at a Walmart because it sometimes can get cold at night in Iowa in the summer.
Very large groups do get reserved spots because of being a large group. There will be directions to the main camp ground for everyone else. Sometimes support vehicles can be right where you camp but don’t count on it.
Cell coverage in overnight towns will get worse as the evening comes. Reception in the meeting towns also suffers. Texting will work longer but will eventually degrade too. Our support people text directions as soon as they have a spot. Text early.
By all means if you have room bring camp chairs, inflatable hammocks, shade canopy, etc.

Good luck and have fun.

#1161535

jwsknk, July 12, 2016 at 3:59 pm

by the Register info booth on the route in near the main campground you can post messages for the team as a back-up to the no cell reception/signal.

#1161548

Brian Wallenburg, July 13, 2016 at 8:30 am

jwsknk, Back in the day, before everyone had cell phones, that was the preferred method of communication. Different colored paper, shapes, colored plates, whatever was easiest to pick out your teams note. That board used to be the length of a semi trailer or more! A blast from the past!
The other type that is still used today is team stickers or identifiers stapled or taped to the pavement with arrows and directions. Our driver will frequently tell us he’s parked next to ……. and follow their teams pavement markers. Works well.

#1161685

OnYourLeft, July 13, 2016 at 8:53 am

Thanks everyone for your contributions; very helpful for us! Can’t wait to finally get there!

#1161687

jwsknk, July 13, 2016 at 10:28 am

yep, A-Z a half block long. The towns really prefer people don’t paint directions on the streets. and utility companies don’t like staples in the poles. But I bet most of them now use cherry pickers or buckets and very few still climb poles.

#1161705

Craig Parson, July 13, 2016 at 11:27 am

I would not plan on a cell phone working at all. The cell network in these areas is overwhelmed by everyone arriving, there is no reason for it to be able to handle this much traffic the rest of the year.

Finding your driver/support team is can be challenging. Even if you do have a cell phone. My first year the camping areas got changed during the ride due to mud on multiple days. Your driver must explain to how to get to where he is. He is in a town he has never been in and you are coming in a completely different route, it’s a challenge. The arrows are a great solution, the support team backtracks to the route from camp and makes Duct tape arrows leading to camp. Duct tape sticks to warm blacktop pretty well and is not a permanent mark. It’s available in gold, pink and even zebra print nowadays. Dont be surprised when someone else thinks they are the only one using hot pink duct tape arrows so be prepared to label it with a black marker too.

It takes some work on the support teams part, but is well worth the effort knowing that hot, tired and sometimes irritated people don’t have another challenge when they arrive. Keeping your wits enough to realize the bright arrow you passed was where you should have turned is hard enough.

Good luck

Craig

#1161714

Sunflower, July 13, 2016 at 11:38 am

See also:

https://youtu.be/MGRaKuuoL4s

https://youtu.be/VWHP9FleUks

https://youtu.be/CNT-ClmvYs0

You will rarely need a sleeping bag or tights/arm warmers but its just not worth the discomfort of not having them. A good “technical” fleece blanket can suffice though, that’s what I prefer, I use one of Columbia’s. Be sure to bring a windbreaker too. You can get hypothermia in Iowa in July, no joke. Do not set off in the morning into high winds and thunderstorms if there appears to be better weather in the afternoon. Half a day is plenty under almost all conditions.

Verizon does the best of the national providers, AT+T the worst. This year’s route may prove especially challenging at points, be sure to have a meatspace backup plan for getting to the campsite.

Camp chairs YES.

Camping in the mass of riders at the official campsite is unnecessary even if you have a vehicle pass. A motivated, enterprising support driver can almost always do better with a smile and polite request: its an opportunity for the driver to engage in the RAGBRAI experience.

#1161716

Brian Wallenburg, July 13, 2016 at 1:28 pm

Sunflower, I’m not picking on you, your grammar or spelling, but I have to say, you made me laugh out loud with the word “meatspace”

#1161730

SFC JKL 2, July 13, 2016 at 10:50 pm

Camp chairs yes unless you plan on sitting in a running van all night. Camps will vary greatly from town to town. Some places spread out for miles. Others are like the Oklahoma land grab. One year our shower was tied to a stop sign. Early bird gets the worm.
Texting works most of the time, even when calling is impossible. Send out directions as soon as possible. Hopefully they will all get it within a few hours. Scout ahead (google is your friend or call/email the town and ask for a suggestion) and pick out an emergency meeting point in each town if all else fails IE: Caseys at 321 Main at 8:00

#1161831

kennejam, July 13, 2016 at 11:25 pm

For the clipless pedals, if you can run the MTB SPD pedals with MTB shoes, you might be more comfortable than with road clipless and road shoes. I switch out my road pedals and shoes for MTB pedals and shoes for Ragbrai and it works well.

#1161832

Jack in VA, July 13, 2016 at 11:53 pm

Sprint coverage sucks in most of Iowa too – unless we’re near the I-80 / I-35 / I-29 corridors and larger cities, you probably won’t get a signal. I made the switch back to Verizon earlier this year – will see how THAT goes. Everyone I know who has used Verizon /US Cellular had coverage throughout the whole state.

#1161833

toddsecoy, July 14, 2016 at 2:36 pm

US Cellular appears to be big in Iowa. Their coverage map shows very strong all over the state.

#1161984

BillSpriggs, July 14, 2016 at 3:44 pm

I’ve had Verizon since 2013 and have never had a problem with coverage.

#1162001

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