RAGBRAI virgin! advice sought. thank you!

i just registered and await the lottery. i will be driving out to the starting area.

how does one get back to the starting area? is that what this bit about charters is all about?

i am totally down with bringing my own camping gear. do we make our own breakfast and dinner? are there showers at the stops?


31 Replies

molly martin, February 25, 2019 at 6:53 pm

what are CORN BEARS?? is that something akin to Bigfoot we have out here? :D

thanks for the Poison Parsnip headsup. I have seen that stuff before but didn’t know it could be such a pain!

thanks for all the advice. i’m thinking i will most likely just dirtbag it and camp. i’m kind of an introvert. i love talking to people, but need to occasionally wander off and hide. hopefully there are little quiet corners here and there one can find?

it’s nice to know that food prep is not something i need to plan for :)

would it be worth it to just carry all my gear and not have to deal with the bag truck?

do people generally bring their own plates, coffee cups and utensils?

do we need to bring a bicycle lock?

are there loads of mosquitoes? i am their favorite snack. :D


Micky Sax, February 25, 2019 at 7:15 pm

Don’t worry about packing a lock! You won’t use it and it’ll just take up valuable space. You’ll get a kick out of how many thousands of bikes that are just laying around and leaned up against anything that’ll hold ’em up.

Some people freak when they find this out…you’ll have pretty spotty cell phone reception at times with so many people swarming small towns with limited cell tower capacity. You won’t be off the grid completely though! You’ll have spotty reception all day but much better reception at the overnight towns. Embrace the limited connectivity and enjoy the ride!


jelly0317, February 25, 2019 at 7:17 pm

“Yes” to the mosquitoes (most years) and lock (at night–leave it in the duffel during the day), “no” to the dishes/utensils. Bagging is a personal choice: some people swear by it, but I’d rather avoid schlepping 50 extra pounds around all day.


Groeny82, February 25, 2019 at 8:36 pm

You won’t need plates or utensils or anything. You won’t be cooking. The baggage truck works for thousands of people. I’m on a team so I have never used the truck but I haven’t heard any major complaints about it. Just don’t carry anything fragile in there, they tend to throw the bags around loading and unloading. I have also heard to have a bag that stands out or to attach something that to it so you can find it easily in the pile of bags. As jelly has said, lugging an extra 50 pounds every day isn’t for me but there are people that do it. Respect for them. The only thing I might suggest but it’s not a necessity it to bring some granola bars. I usually had one in the morning as a pick me up to get me the few miles to the breakfast stop. There is something to eat/drink literally every couple miles so depending on what you are in the mood for you will go at most 10 miles before finding something that appeals to you. I never had problems with bugs but it is Iowa and summer, so bring bug spray. And sunscreen. I also had a small bottle of Purell in my saddle bag that I liked having. If a bike lock would make you feel better I say bring a lightweight one but I don’t think it’s necessary. You will see $2000, $3000, $4000+ bikes laying around without locks. I haven’t been on many RAGBRAI’s but reading the forum and talking to veterans I have only heard of a couple instances when a bike was stolen but they were recovered later a day or two later. Just a drunk local taking it for a joyride. So a very lightweight cable lock would be enough to deter 99% of opportunists.


Amanda, February 26, 2019 at 7:12 am

Robin- I think you can get single day passes online here after April 1. I am not positive but I think that’s how it reads. To get a ride from the end town to the second day out or wherever you want to go, I would suggest friends. You might be able to find a local who can give you a ride but that would be taking a chance that someone is available. I am assuming you would arrive on RAGBRAI on Thursday night then correct? Accommodations, well there’s campsites in each overnight town so just find a spot and put your tent down. If you’re going to have RAGBRAI carry your bags those last two days, you need to find the official campground find your spot put your tent up. Another option would be to have a third person go with you as a support driver. Then your accommodations are more flexible. Just find your support driver and make camp. I hope this helps I’m not real clear on my direction I know! But it is early in the morning. LOL


jwsknk, February 26, 2019 at 8:22 am

I think the RAGBRAI truck puts out little time signs that show about when that section of bags was loaded. so know about what time you put them on and that will narrow the search.
Some people say Corn Bears are mythical…like some say Bigfoot is.
I do have a set of camping silverware on the bike, cuts down on the plastic waste a little bit.
Could be mosquitoes or not, depends if they thaw out by then or can dig out. But this is southern Iowa this year, they haven’t been slammed quite as hard recently with the weather.
a lock, in big cities maybe, the closest we get is Indianola this year. In the main campground depends on how close to your tent you can get it. If the tents big enough take it inside, If there is room to lay it next to tent do that. My tent has two doors, I lay it so the saddle and other parts are under the fly mostly to keep those parts dry but then the helmet, gloves, sandals stay out there too on top of the bike. Anything left out in the open will be wet in the morning.


mrwonderful, February 26, 2019 at 8:31 am

Welcome! I will be listening for ukulele music! Enjoy!!


molly martin, February 26, 2019 at 9:41 am

awesome. thanks so much for the info y’all. yeah. i could at least bring my titanium coffee cup and spork because they are cool, and cut down on waste :)

my tent has two big vestibules so i could easily drag my lil Bike Friday under one of them :)

i’ll be on the lookout for CORN BEARS. you can never be too careful :D

i’ll carry the ukulele on the bicycle so it doesn’t get smashed on the truck, plus who knows when it will be a good time for a jam sesh?

i should work up a setlist of bicycle themed songs. i already have Brand New Key. I can probably get a chart for Queen’s Bicycle Race. what are some other bikelele tunes i should find? :D

does one bring costumes??


swiifg, February 26, 2019 at 9:57 am

If you are considering bringing your ukelele and asking about costumes, you will fit into the RAGBRAI groove, no problem!

You ask about tunes – we were at a basketball game recently and heard Sweet Caroline. As you’ll find out, that song will forever remind you of RAGBRAI in the future.


T. Gap Woo, February 26, 2019 at 2:00 pm


Funny that Corn Bears should be mentioned. On Ragbrai 42 between Oelwein and Otterville in Amish country, I was about 10 rows deep in a cornfield kybo when I heard a low growl and rustling coming toward me as I finished my business. I also heard a voice calling out, “Bear!” You can imagine what went through my mind as I hustled out of that cornfield, leaving a trail of broken cornstalks in my wake. Once back to the safety of my bike and the road, I spotted a little Amish boy calling out “Bear!” Before I could ask him what was going on, a big collie came bounding out of the corn. The boy cried out, “Bear, don’t run off like that. With all of the bicycles going down the road, you could’ve got run over!” That little fella had no idea why I was laughing so hard as I pedaled away.

On another ?, bring your uke. I’ll have my two-note ooga horn. Although I have two tin ears and cannot carry a tune in a sack (having been told numerous times to drop that sack down a deep well!), I’m sure we can raise enough of a ruckus to chase away the skeeters!

Welcome to the party. I hope to see you along the I-O-Way in July.


Amanda, February 26, 2019 at 4:12 pm

Sweet Caroline is our team’s theme song! It’s also the last song I danced and sang to before I broke my ankle in 2017!


Gypsy Rose, February 26, 2019 at 6:17 pm

I remember hearing Sweet Caroline being played somewhere along the RAGBRAI route a few years ago. I thought to myself, “Wow, there are Red Sox fans even here in Iowa!”

The song has been played at Fenway Park for the past 22 years, and in the middle of the eighth inning since 2002 (when the fans all sing along – loudly when it comes to “So Good, So Good”)

Go Sox!!!

~ Kevin


LawnchairMan, February 27, 2019 at 3:10 am


I don’t know if mosquitoes don’t like me or I was just lucky. I seem to get only one bite per year. I do carry three fabric softener sheets (Bounce) in a sandwich bag. The sheets are supposed to ward off the critters, but I keep forgetting to take the sheets out of the bag. Just having a sheet out in the tent would help, but I think I am supposed to rub them on my skin. If it gets to be a problem I will do that. I do make sure my screen doors are zipped shut even on warm nights.

Another plant to avoid is hemlock. As in the death of Socrates. It looks similar to parsnip, but with white flowers instead of yellow. I saw several white topped plants last year and thought they were hemlock. They may have just been Queen Ann’s Lace instead. The give away is that the Queen Ann’s has one purple flower in the middle of the white crown. To remember, think that Queen Ann pricked her finger and spilled one drop of blood. Now that I know the difference, I will look closer to see what they are. I hope this doesn’t sound like there are dangers every where in Iowa. I’ve never had a problem in the six times I’ve been at Ragbrai.

You asked about costumes. A few people do wear them. I have seen a guy dressed as a gal, and I have seen riders with capes. Several people decorate their helmets. One team had small helicopters. Many riders mount corn or other plant parts. A few years ago “viking” horns were sold at the Expo that attached to helmets. Last year I mounted a flying pig to my bike. I think the majority of riders don’t do any of it, but you will have lots of company if you do. So, be creative. It can be a great conversation starter!


cannontandem, February 27, 2019 at 4:07 am

Corn Bears are people that use the corn fields for there restrooms. It’s been around for years and really should be spelled Corn Bares as in bare skin. Another term you hear is KYBO’s. In the early days the portable toilets were mainly from the KYBO company but they were gone by the late 70’s. The ride has changed a lot since my first one in 1974 but the people are still the fun loving and adventures group they always were. I hope the memories you build are as great as the ones I have and hope to add to.


Groeny82, February 27, 2019 at 7:00 am

Another thing is don’t over pack. You don’t need a new set of clothes for each day. I only took a couple t-shirts, a pair of shorts, a pair of athletic short, jogging pants, and a pair of jeans. Take a little travel bottle of Febreeze to freshen up the clothes. Riding gear I took a new jersey for each day and only a few bibs. When I showered I would rinse out my kit and hang it up to dry and reuse a bib after a couple days. Take along one gallon zip lock bags to put your worn kit in. Bring your own toiletries of course and I use a microfiber towel instead if a big bulky bathroom towel. I got mine in the automotive department at Wal-Mart.


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