RAGBRAI XLIX registration is now open!

No Vendors outside of towns in first two counties

Here it is, all about the $’s. Discuss.


115 Replies

LawnchairMan, May 25, 2018 at 5:12 pm

The above link is to the 1012 route maps. They show the water droplet I referred to earlier where they handout free bottles of water. That year it was sponsored by the Air National Guard. A later year it looks like it was sponsored by Nuun. The maps indicate these stops were in towns, but I remember a handout somewhere mid-ride on the open road.
Perhaps this year there are no sponsors.


Bitsy Gurney, May 25, 2018 at 5:18 pm

So silly. Threatening to not spend money in a county if they don’t allow vendors is counterproductive and hollow. If a rider avoids spending money by carrying their own food and water, they are proving people can self support, nullifying the argument vendors are needed and proving the county right. If the only place these riders want to spent money on the route is with vendors, they were never spending money in the counties anyway so no loss. If they will just end up spending money in town or with vendors located in town, then there is no boycott. If they will SAG through the county rather than ride, also they would not have been spending money anyway. If vendors are so critical to their enjoyment that they will just not come, any of the people begging for wristbands who will ride vendors or not will happily take their place.

The distances on this first part of the first day in the county in question are <10 miles between stops. There are no 30 mile streches with no support whatsoever where vendor support is needed for safety.

Sending county commissioners threats that you will dump refuse in their county in retaliation for their decisions or calling commissioners Hitler is embarrassing, extreme, and sad for the entire RAGBRAI community. I will actively only support vendors who are respectful and supportive of constructive collaboration with host communities/pass through towns going forward.

I am glad to see RAGBRAI and the local committees working through this and am psyched for the first day!!!!


LawnchairMan, May 25, 2018 at 9:16 pm

I think you are missing the point. It’s not whether we can’t go 30 or 43 miles self supported, it’s do we CHOOSE to. To me it is one of the features that makes Ragbrai unique; what am I going to find around the next bend? A lemonade stand? A cucumber stand. Once it was free roasting ears! As has been mentioned by others, it can be more enjoyable to have a snack watching the corn grow rather than bumping elbows with hundreds of other cyclists.
What sticks in my craw is that they would “push” us into the towns. I may be blaming the wrong county for this, but that was what upset me the most. I don’t want to be manipulated!
I usually carb-up in the start town to prepare for the next day. I love the all you can eat church dinners, and like to support the local Boy Scouts or 4 H clubs. I am still hoping for a fair resolution to this issue so I can continue this tradition. If this is not, I may bring my own first night supplies this year and never start from this town again. I feel a bit trapped because this issue did not come to light until after I had committed to coming.
I just fear that if we don’t say something this year (politely), other counties could adopt similar policies. That would be the end of Ragbrai for me.


CharterOak DayOne, May 26, 2018 at 5:45 am

Small towns hosting riders and small-time roadside vendors have been a staple of RAGBRAI since its inception. What’s new and different are the caravans of commercial vendors setting up shop on the roadside. To give you an idea of what a small town has to do to host RAGBRAI, we are currently scrambling to find funds to pay for a huge tent for our beer garden, port-a-pots, signage, etc., ALL things we have been told the riders really appreciate and want. We are volunteers who lead busy lives. We have jobs, families, and own businesses. We don’t host RAGBRAI because we are personally profiting from doing so. Are we complaining? No. Are we going to fight to stave off what are, essentially, portable towns that want to set up shop a mile or two outside of our town? You bet! We CHOOSE to protect our investment and we value our time and efforts. IF we make any money off RAGBRAI, it will go back into the community or be returned to various non-profit civic organizations. Nobody in small town Iowa is personally cashing-in on RAGBRAI. We are in Crawford County which reversed course on the out-of-town vendor ban and, I believe, is leaning toward a reasonable compromise (one more public reading/hearing of the proposed ordinance to go), which is a sensible buffer zone between towns and the professional vendor caravans. That’s all our town ever asked for. That being said, Monona and Crawford Counties will take great care of RAGBRAI participants. We are all excited to have this “rolling party” trek through our towns, and we are working hard to make Day One enjoyable for all. Be assured that we will continue to plan for a fun, relaxing day FOR YOU. And we are happy to do it. We’ll see you July 22nd! Viva RAGBRAI!


Bitsy Gurney, May 26, 2018 at 6:04 am

Hi Lawnchariman!

Thanks for your reply. I dont think I am missing the point, I just think I have a different point.

I love a cold drink under a shady tree as a break on the route. I stop at vendors daily and look forward to seeing many of them. But for me the vendors are not a major factor in why I do the ride – its about spending time with my teammates (some of whom I only see once a year on the ride) and meeting townspeople and experiencing life in their towns. I don’t bristle at being manipulated by the counties into riding and eating and whatever into wherever they prefer I do it- they have to host and manage the thing, they have to pay the costs of me being there, they have to manage the impacts to the locals for the day, they put all the work into hosting me, thats their call on what they want to do. As long as my needs are met I am good.

I understand there are people who feel that if the status quo on vendors is changed, they will no longer want to come. I dont share that opinion, but I respect it. The problem I see is the use of threats and manipulation rather than respectful conversation to work through the issue. I genuinely do not understand why anyone thinks threats would entice county commissioners to their viewpoint, everyones base reaction to being threatened is to entrech. I am praying for cooler heads to prevail. I want to see more thoughtful expressions of opinions. And whatever the end result is, someone will probably be unhappy as usual.

I have ridden this thing for many, many years and I remember when there were way less vendors and they were smaller in footprint. I have seen larger vendors come and go over the years. I strongly believe there may be a sentiment brewing statewide towards restrictions on rural vending which some of the larger vendors are fighting tooth and nail which is why this got so dramatic this time. Some people prefer lots of vendors. Some will prefer less. Some will stop coming if there are less vendors, some will start coming if they think the commercialized aspect of the ride is being toned down as that turns off some people from participating right now. As long as everyone can be civil in expressing their preferences we can at least all come out of this without causing permanent damage to each other.

I hope you have an awesome ride!


Mark Weintraub, May 26, 2018 at 9:27 am

Hey, if you haven’t yet, read what TJ wrote about this and listen to the recent Just Go Bike podcasts. First, understand that good people are working on this and it appears it’s steadily getting better. Second, remember that those little towns make RAGBRAI and without their incentive and desire to participate, RAGBRAI would either not exist or be very very different. Be kind and make sure they end up happy to have been part of the route.


Larry Klaaren, May 26, 2018 at 10:55 am

Do people realize that when Ragbrai comes to a town it sometimes has a pretty serious negative economic effect for some of the non-food and drink retailers in that town? Especially if it is a small town and Ragbrai takes over the main street and parking areas. Good for the churches and ball teams, etc. that get a booth or have a dinner. I can understand a town getting upset with vendors that set up just outside of town and snag a lot of business. Another factor here is that this is a sparsely populated portion of the state. The entire population of those two counties is less than a small city in much of the state. Every extra police or whatever person they would hire is a much bigger expense to them than say Iowa City or even Sigourney. Just some thoughts.


KenH, May 26, 2018 at 3:46 pm

I don’t have any issue with counties setting their own policies for commercial operations and enforcing them. They can require that vendors set up wherever they feel that they need for them to set up. I have always enjoyed both the town based food and drink vendors as well as those set up in farmer’s yards. The former give us the chance to interact with the townspeople of Iowa’s rural communities, the latter lend a unique character to the ride and often give us nice views and welcome mid route shade to enjoy while we keep our boilers and fireboxes filled.

The concern about water sources between towns is not, in my opinion, valid when the distance between towns is 12 miles but I would not want it to be lost that it is a valid concern in general and at not too much greater a distance. There was a recent blog post on this website called “Hydrate for your heart health” which includes a urine color chart that I think you should ignore for several reasons. But at the top of that chart, in the fine print, is the instruction to drink a liter of water per hour. That, I think, is good advice. It lines up with the information I have been able to find about the water absorbtion rate of human beings. Your body can absorb about a liter per hour from the water in your digestive system.

This ride is scheduled around people who ride at ten miles per hour. They will then need to consume a liter of water every ten miles on a hot day to stay safely hydrated. I think it is reasonable to expect that people will carry two water bottles on their bikes. My two rather large insulated bottles will hold 750ml each or a liter and a half total. That means that a 10mph rider can reasonably be expected to run out of water after 15 miles. If counties want to limit the locations for commercial food vendors to towns that is fine. But the Register needs to make it clear to them that if the route that year goes for more than 15 miles between towns the counties MUST allow watering opportunities between towns. As I have just demonstrated this is neither alarmist nor rabble rousing. It is an important SAFETY concern.

Now I would also add that some of the most memorable roadside stops that I have made during RAGBRAI were at roadside rural churches, schools, and businesses. Please do not prohibit them from participating in RAGBRAI! To do so would be to deny everything that is good about this event.


LawnchairMan, May 26, 2018 at 8:07 pm

No Bitsy, you missed the point. Let’s break it down:

You said “So silly. Threatening to not spend money in a county if they don’t allow vendors is counterproductive and hollow.”

First off, since I have threatened to not spend money in Monona county, you are calling me silly and hollow. I take offence. Unless you think it is silly or hollow to stand up for the little guys, the kids’ lemonade stands or Mom & Pops watermelon stand. In that case I am guilty as charged.

Obviously there will be vendors in the towns, so I have to assume you mean country vendors. That is the issue: country vendors, but since you didn’t say that. You missed it.

You said “If a rider avoids spending money by carrying their own food and water, they are proving people can self support, nullifying the argument vendors are needed and proving the county right.” I have never said the country vendors are necessary. For me it is the choice if I see something interesting. I rode 46 miles today self supported, so I can do it. That doesn’t mean that every one can. So again, you missed it.

You said “If the only place these riders want to spent money on the route is with vendors, they were never spending money in the counties anyway so no loss.” This one really has me baffled. Still assuming you mean country vendors, they are in the county, so, were it allowed, I would spend money in the county. And if there are pirates, I may anyway.
The issue is not that I want to purchase only from the country vendors. It’s to spend where I want. The only reason I would not patronize the towns is if I thought they were not fair to the little guys outside the towns. Usually the largest part of my ride expenses are in the towns. I just want the choice. Again you missed the point.

So, I don’t think you have different points. I think you failed to make them.

By the way, I boycotted the whole ride last year. I was all set to go with week long pass and everything. But I got all my refunds. Still think it’s a hollow threat?

You have a wonderful ride too!


Sandaltan ., May 26, 2018 at 10:36 pm

Yeah, how about those Cubs?

RIDE RIGHT now back to your regularly scheduled programming.


ratscallion, May 28, 2018 at 12:32 am

Roadside vendors are definitely part of the charm of the experience that is RAGBRAI. I’ve always appreciated a quick stop at Mr. Porkchop, Beekman’s, Amish pie, a cold water bottle, a pickle, or some fresh cut watermelon. It gives me a good excuse to stop and wait for friends to roll up, and the opportunity to chat and meet new friends. Some of my best memories are conversations with other riders, locals, and farm owners I met at those roadside vendors. I would sincerely miss the social aspect more than any food or beverages… Most of the time they locate in a driveway or a farmer’s front lawn so they’re well off the roadway. As for the event heat management plan, encouraging frequent stops are a simple way to avoid incidents of heat illness; riders can stop and rest to recover, drink water, and get core temperature down before continuing.

Of course, I am always happy to see Iowa Craft Beer Tent near the end of the ride, and I make it a point to stop for a good craft beer. ICBT is a class outfit, very well organized. I’ve always believed ICBT purposefully located just outside of towns so as not to interfere with local establishments. I’m certain they can easily afford a permit in any town; it’s just a cost of doing business. However, situating a short distance away from town has a real advantage from an event planning standpoint. It creates a self-limiting aspect for consumption; meaning, the vast majority of riders will tend to self-pace and are less likely to over-beverage themselves knowing they still need to ride another several miles into town. I’m sure everything will work out… and if ICBT goes rogue, maybe they’ll put a pirate on the t-shirts this year… ArrRAGBRAI!


CharterOak DayOne, May 28, 2018 at 5:13 am

The solution is for RAGBRAI to work with the caravan vendors to secure locations for them along the route that are agreeable to all parties. I’ve heard every reason in the book – from riders – for defending the big-time roadside vendors, i.e., it’s a safety issue, they don’t like long lines, they want beer fast, it’s a good meet-up spot, and my personal favorite, they are “smart” and want “real beer” not mass-produced in St. Louis [eyeroll]. Whatever the reason, RAGBRAI should include vendors such as ICB & Company in the planning of the route and, working in conjunction with the counties involved, place them where it makes sense, for safety’s sake, while also not putting the pinch on the host towns. Otherwise, their pool of host towns will most likely dry up in the near future. After all, the goal is the continued success of RAGBRAI, right?


Michrider !!!, May 28, 2018 at 7:17 am

[quote quote=1286976]Yeah, how about those Cubs?
RIDE RIGHT now back to your regularly scheduled programming.[/quote]
ST, I want to be just like you, when I grow up!!!

BTW: RAGBRAI don’t care!!!


Sandaltan ., May 28, 2018 at 6:59 pm

[quote quote=1287007][quote quote=1286976]Yeah, how about those Cubs?
RIDE RIGHT now back to your regularly scheduled programming.[/quote]
ST, I want to be just like you, when I grow up!!!

BTW: RAGBRAI don’t care!!![/quote]
Mich, if ya didn’t start smokin and drinkin young ya caint ketchup to me. Will ya be on a trike in Ioway in July?



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