Sense of travel logistics

This will be our first Ragbrai ride. Would like to acquaint myself with logistics from those who have ridden. This is being asked by someone is travelling from afar by car. To minimize the vast requirement for parking, is driving to the starting point discouraged? Is it encouraged to find other rider/driver from outlying area willing to share a ride to the starting area? Upon completion of the ride, are there services to bring bike, gear and ‘us’ back to the starting area? Does it make more sense to leave your vehicle at the destination, and finding a ride to the starting point. Appreciate any input. Nothing is obvious till it’s obvious…

26 Replies

T. Gap Woo, November 4, 2018 at 8:53 am

Welcome to the traveling carnival/state fair/Mardi Gras known as Ragbrai, Mike!

I write from the perspective of someone who drives about 1300 miles to the start town. I ride solo and Mrs Woo is my support driver. While I am biking (which I love), Mrs Woo zigs and zags along a parallel route, sightseeing and shopping in the small towns (which she loves). We meet at the day’s overnight town and repeat the process the next day. It’s worked well for the five years I’ve ridden. As the old saying goes, “Happy wife, happy life!”

If you have no support driver because everyone in your party is riding, then this forum will be overflowing with good advice that will address all of your concerns.

Good luck with your planning and preparation. Have a happy holiday season.

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


Dizzy, November 4, 2018 at 10:17 am

MikeMa, Welcome.
The options for your inquiry are endless.
I prefer to station my car at the end town. That puts me on the east side of Iowa and closer to home. If I lived west of Iowa, I would station my car at the start town.
There are endless options for getting a ride from east to west/west to east, or somewhere in between, both before and after the ride.
A suggestion: 1) go to the RAGBRAI site menu bar, click on “The Ride” tab. Then read everything under the “General” and “Services” tabs. You’ll be much more informed; 2) after step 1, look on the right of the “Forums” page under “Categories”, open the “RAGBRAI XLVI – 2018” forum and spend some time reading through a couple pages worth of comments. You can also search the forums by words, e.g., “rides”, “parking”, etc; 3) after steps 1 & 2, you’ll have a good feel for things and can then comb through all the replies to your original inquiry.
Best of luck. See you in July! D


lhansen, November 4, 2018 at 12:12 pm

Its easier to park in the ending town, around May 1 that town will allow you to buy long term parking pass for the week you are riding. To get you and the bike across Iowa to the beginning town there are multiple charter services that will take you and help support you thru the week also. I have used Brancel Bike Charter for the last 5 years and am very happy with them. The Forum will become more active after January 26 when the overnight towns are made public. Good to see you trying Ragbrai, be careful though, it can be addicting, I was going to try it once 8 times ago.


Larry Klaaren, November 4, 2018 at 4:28 pm

One advantage to parking in the end town is that when you are done you can go directly home rather than waiting for everyone else to make it to your charter, then riding to the start and waiting for luggage etc. Depending on where you live you may also have to triangulate if you ride back to the start. I really enjoy the ride, but I am ready to be done by Saturday afternoon.


KenH, November 6, 2018 at 5:24 pm

Even if you don’t want to use a charter service during the week most of them have bus service from the end town to the start town at the start of the ride that will transport your bike and gear too. It’s a great option and if you prefer to park at the start town and get a shuttle back there at the end that service may be offered too but check to be sure.

Teams are another option, they all have their own logistical strategies. Researching them will give you something to do over the winter!


Chris, November 16, 2018 at 12:47 pm

To echo what TGap and lhansen said, and add a few things…..

My wife and I drive in about 1,100 miles from New Jersey. A few notes on the drive in: the weekend before, take some time on the computer and check the route you’re planning on driving, looking at the DMV pages from each state for major construction projects. We normally head out on Route 80, as that’s the most direct route, but one year we diverted off that route because of emergency construction that was really screwing things up in Ohio.
This may or may not be for you, but if you’re a night owl, consider doing most of the trip at night. There is FAR less traffic, any constructions zones generally are a few minute delay rather than hours, faster at gas stations, etc… Oh, audiobooks are your friend on a trip like this, too. Think more like a long-haul trucker than a normal drive. I find music annoying after a few hours, and the signal is spotty half the time…..Anyway….

As for parking: park at the ending town, take a charter service to the start town. We’ve used Brancel Charters for the past 7 years and have nothing but good to say about them. We do not use them as a Charter for the week; we just use them to get from the end town to the start. It’s easy: You drop your bike(s) off with them on Friday night between 2-7pm, then hop on the bus the following morning at 7 or 8am. I would strongly suggest planning on coming into the end town on Friday night and getting a hotel room (or camping out; there is a designated camping site available). Hitting the timing just right on Saturday morning would be tricky on such a long drive. Spend Friday night marveling at the controlled chaos :)

The side-advantage to being parked at the end town is that you effectively spend the week riding back to your car, so once you get to your car, you’re done. Load the bike up, go get your gear from the baggage pickup area, get a shower, and on the road toward home you go. You don’t have to wait for anyone, don’t have a 6+ hour trip in a car back to get to you car, etc… You’re on your own schedule to either stay for the party at the end, start toward home, whatever.

Welcome to the party :)


bricycle Rothberg, November 19, 2018 at 9:29 pm

So this is my first Ragbrai & I have very little idea on how things are done.

2 questions to an experienced rider:

-I registered on the opening day. What are my chances of getting an entry to the event?

– I am considering a similar arrangement to yours with my wife sight-seeing while I ride. Where do you & your wife stay at nite?



jwsknk, November 20, 2018 at 7:54 am

Its a lottery so it doesn’t matter what day you register, as long as it is before the deadline. Chances are really really god you will get drawn for a pass. even if for some odd reason you don’t , there are always people who get one then cant go so are looking to transfer.

Plan on camping or applying for a host home, that application process won’t be up until much closer to the ride like May or June, when the overnight towns get their committees set up. Expect a small fee from each town for that. Hotels fill quick, the Register will get almost all in a smaller town. The Highway Patrol, Medics and support staff fill a lot of them. if the town is big enough like Ames and Iowa City last year, then there will be rooms available. Some people have probably already booked rooms where they think the route might go and will cancel in Feb after the route comes out.


Ken Reed, November 20, 2018 at 9:07 am

I’ll echo what’s been said already. My wife and I have a team with a bus that meets us in either Altoona or Ankeny (depending upon the year) in the Target parking lot where the stores will let you park there as long as it’s in the back of the parking lot. They will then bring us back at the end of the week. Some charters will also have this same set up.


francoisvanzyl, December 4, 2018 at 4:29 pm

4 People in our party. We drive the truck with all the bikes and gear to the start town to get there Thursday night or early on the Friday before the event. We draw some straws and one unlucky sod has to drive the truck to the end town while the rest of us just hang out. We can do it one day later but why? Guy parks the truck in the end town and catches a bus back across Iowa for the second time that day. It is cheaper this way since that ride on the bus can be pricey for 4 people. This way we have all of us at the start town at the beginning and the vehicle in the end town at the end of the week.


Portland Cyclist PDX, December 15, 2018 at 2:17 pm

I used the Ron Oman charter just for a ride to the starting point and back to Omaha on the last day, and it was super easy. So yes, you could park your car near the starting point if that shortens your drive. Just note that sitting on the bus for hours after you finish the week may not be for everyone, so perhaps parking in the end town and getting a ride to the starting point makes more sense?


Rob Erskine, December 25, 2018 at 1:44 pm

Three of us from Ohio took one car to Davenport (end town), rented a mini van one way to Omaha, camped Friday night about half way at a state park. Advantages- (A)no boxing or protecting bikes on shuttle (B) Cost was about the same as one person’s shuttle
I think this plan works when larger cities are near both the start and finish since one way rentals are rare outside of airports.


mootsman, December 26, 2018 at 8:46 am

There are a couple of good options for RAGBRAI for those driving from a long ways away. The starting and end towns have long term parking available. Usually in early May the info to sign up for parking is on the RAGBRAI website.

As for logistics, 2 basic approaches other then the minimal standard RAGBRAI support (not recommended)

1) Find an Iowa based RAGBRAI “Team” looking for participants on this forum. An Iowa based team will stage out of a location in Iowa both for the start and end. And usually they have parking arrangements. You may even want to Google “Team Sop’N Wet” as they usually look for members and stage out of Ames which is a good central location. Basically its like a charter where you have chores to pitch in with.

2) Use one of the charter groups. You can just use their transport service or go along for the whole week with them staying in their campground. Costs vary depending on the amount of services you sign up for.

I’ve gone with teams before and they are nice in that you have a new group of friends the instant you show up.

I went with a charter last time and loved it since they had a “tent service” I used (extra fee) but each day my tent was already set up and my luggage was waiting for me in it. No searching a mountain of luggage. Plus they had lots of other services: meals, entertainment, beer/lemonaide included and even a flush toilet trailer in addition to Kybos (RAGBRAI speak for porta-potie). And their showers were the best. I went with Pork Belly Ventures (PKBELLY.COM) It was nice going to the end town early on the 1st Saturday and having them transport your bike, luggage and you to the start town. Then your car is waiting for you in the end-town.


Bob Amlie, December 27, 2018 at 11:59 pm

Well, your best bet would be to sign on with a bike club based in Iowa. They round up the rider tags, and find weeklong parking spots, and then transport you & your gear to the starting point and then your gear from overnite town to overnight town to the end town,(while you pedal, of course),
and then everyone back to where the group parked their cars for the week. That’s the logistics. There are small enthusiast groups out there, that would like very much for you to come along, and for a reasonable fee. Bear in mind that they are not going to wait on you hand-and-foot; they’re just letting you join in, for your mutual benefit. You’re on your own, while riding. I can’t say as I would recommend “winging it”, setting up your own logistics, unless you have family/friends in-state that can help you out. Anyway, the small group deal is the way to go. Also, if you want a carnival–atend the county fair or 6 Flags or Disney World. RAGBRAI is pretty much about traveling across the state under your own power, and seeing the sights along the way, visiting with the residents& other riders, and getting sustenance so you can ride the next day. That it is a “Mardi Graas” is a myth. All there is to it.
Good Luck!


Chris, December 29, 2018 at 9:35 am

“RAGBRAI is pretty much about traveling across the state under your own power, and seeing the sights along the way, visiting with the residents& other riders, and getting sustenance so you can ride the next day. That it is a “Mardi Graas” is a myth. All there is to it.”

Agreed….and respectfully disagree.

Agreed that RAGBRAI is, primarily, about riding across Iowa, meeting the wonderful people who call that state home, kanoodling with riders, and eating everything that’s not nailed down.

Respectfully disagree about the Mardi Gras, though. If you’re at the back of the pack with the late-late morning crowd that stayed up way past the last band in the overnight town, sure it’s not the REAL Mardi Gras, but it’s a respectable party by most standards. In general, though: The beads, the strange outfits, the volume of alcohol consumed by some, makes it more like Mardi Gras than not. A better comparison might have been Woodstock (complete with mud some days!). It is more tame now than back in the 90’s; I don’t think there’s been a naked group ride though an overnight town in quite a few years. That’s quite alright, too :)

RAGBRAI has always been what you wanted it to be.
‘Cause RAGBRAI don’t care. :)

See you in July.


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