Finally going to mark RAGBRAI off my bucket list and what perfect timing as RAGBRAI 2018 ends at the Mississippi on my 50th birthday. As a newbie doing this with some girlfriends (also newbie’s) what are the chances of actually getting a real bed at the various overnight stops? Between hotels/motels and awesome Iowans opening up their homes, what are our chances of avoiding camping? Thanks for your input.

34 Replies

Amanda, January 16, 2018 at 8:05 am

[quote quote=1280402]Break your leg in the overnight town and they’ll let you sleep in a hospital bed. I’m sure that somebody has used that trick… ?[/quote]

Haha! When I broke my ankle last year, I just stayed in the ER for a few hours. No overnight! We did get a hotel room – not in the town I broke it and our group stayed there. Next day we drove back in the RV and I slept good. With the help of pain pills!! LOL


Ken Reed, January 16, 2018 at 8:49 am

The last time I stayed in a hotel on RAGBRAI was Cedar Rapids in 2012. It was a my birthday (7/26) so that made it even better.


sdickes, January 16, 2018 at 10:42 am

With a good set of earplugs and a small battery powered fan, camping on Ragbrai really isn’t so bad. You will be pretty tired from riding all day, and eventually all week, that you will fall asleep quickly. Everyone here is recommending charter services which are nice but I’ve never had any problem going with the truck provided by Ragbrai. They organize your bags by the time you loaded them on so it’s never taken more than 5 minutes to find once our group has gotten into the overnight town.


Denton Kernodle, January 16, 2018 at 11:37 am

My advise to anyone, newbies and oldies, get a lightweight tent, about 5 lb, learn to erect it fast and plan to tent camp. Also, get a good air mattress and pillow. You can do like the rest of us, pack it all in a duffel bag every day and let the transport truck haul it to the next camp. The tent idea opens up a lot of easy options. With a tent you can stay in the official ragbria camp or one of the charter camps. They always have showers, and plenty of people to visit with.


Mike Howe, January 16, 2018 at 2:35 pm

Last year was my first RAGBRAI and I used Pork Belly Ventures (PBV). Some of the nights they offered an indoor sleeping area inside churches, schools, etc. You still slept on the ground but you where inside. I never used it but saw it was offered. Only downside is that they don’t allow people in after a certain time.

But like a couple of others have said on this thread…when you’re waking up at 6am, cycling 50+ miles a day in the sun, etc it’s not too hard to fall asleep.


Gallagher, January 16, 2018 at 3:31 pm

I used the RAGBRAI transportation my first several years of the ride and it worked great. As somebody else mentioned, if you get a small fan for some white noise (and cooling), ear plugs and maybe even a Benadryl each night before bed, you’ll be fine.


Sandaltan ., January 17, 2018 at 1:12 pm

Your chances to avoid camping each and every night are zero. Plan to tent camp. You may be granted a request for a host home but that is like a lottery, a few winners, mostly losers. Plan to tent camp.



Amanda, January 17, 2018 at 8:12 pm

I thought i would hate sleeping in a tent and tried to get hotel rooms the first year. That didn’t work. But my friend and I did find a few houses to sleep in. The hard part was the group we went with that carried our stuff seemed to always camp on the opposite side of the town of our host house. We had to carry our gear back and forth. That was a major hassle. The next year we camped and had a great time. We have been doing it ever since.

Oh – the first night, Saturday night, you won’t sleep. You will be too excited to sleep – whether you are in a tent or in a hotel.


John Richardson, January 18, 2018 at 9:18 am

You’re quite right about not getting much sleep the first night. Since I ride to the starting town self contained I’m pretty beat when I arrive and am looking forward to getting some sleep but everyone else is in a party mood. I’ve learned to expect that over the years and now just except the fact that I won’t get much sleep until Sunday night.


Anonymous, January 22, 2018 at 7:46 pm

After you’re registered, contact the host communities’ housing committees. We’ve always had good luck lining up places to stay. The majority of the time we end up indoors. You may not be on a bed, but it’s better than sleeping in a tent, and dealing with takedown in the morning. As another poster mentioned, this is all MUCH easier if you have a driver.


scottonbike, January 23, 2018 at 11:15 am

To get the full RAGBRAI experience you need to tent. That being said, if you have access to a vehicle and do not mind driving about 75 miles after the ride your chances of getting a hotel room are good. If the route goes into bigger areas you may not have to travel as far. You will be missing out on the whole experience if you leave the overnight towns once you get there.


Anonymous, January 23, 2018 at 11:19 am

One word (three words): INFLATABLE GROUND PAD! First RAGBRAI I didn’t have one = crappy sleep. The RAGBRAI after that, had one (plus a blanket) = BEST SLEEP EVER… in some cases, better than a bed, but I think riding a lot of miles had a lot to do with it! :)


Melinda Blankenhorn, January 30, 2018 at 9:32 am

I am so excited for you! My high school girlfriends and I did it in 2017 for the first time ever and we had a BLAST! We were 55 and had just taken up cycling, but completed every single mile. I’m overweight, too. We plan to do it again this summer. We were able to find homes for every night. We contacted relatives, work connections, group organizations we are each in, whatever. We slept in beds half of the time and basement floors the other half. With air mattresses, our old bones did okay! Be creative! Ask on your Facebook if any of your friends have connections in Iowa. If you ride, look for our goats on our helmets! We’d love to hang out with another similar group!


Lisa Weaver, February 4, 2018 at 2:08 pm

Thank you so much for your comments. I am nervous about this adventure but words like yours help me think “I can do this!”


Barry Schnoor, February 5, 2018 at 7:17 am

Jack, where are you in VA? Are you riding in 2018? I’m in Winchester, departing the morning of 7/19. Overnighting in Davenport, where my (80-year old) parents will drive me to Onawa. Back to VA after an overnight in Davenport on the tail end…


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