RAGBRAI LI July 20 -27, 2024

What is the issue around town shut down times?

I read in the letter from Matt Phippen that the biggest concern he has heard on his first week on the job is town shut down times. For someone like me who starts early and ends early each day, how big of an issue is this?

53 Replies

Neu112, January 28, 2022 at 6:39 pm

Not really sure what went wrong this day as our routine was the same the previous days. We aren’t fast riders. We will stop and eat breakfast in one of the first few stops and the stop at the craft beer for one but we don’t stay very long. If my memory serves me right I felt like things we shutting down around 1:30. I also feel like this was more than a common occurrence for the day and it seemed like lots of people we coming into town with us. Again it was the first time in my 7 rides this happened. Definitely won’t keep me from my next RAGBRAI. Can’t wait to see the route tonight.


Wendy Fedler, January 29, 2022 at 12:40 pm

It’s a huge safety issue when they won’t allow riders to get food or water to safely finish their ride. Last year they even shut off a water hose in the middle of the Karras Loop! I understand stopping alcohol sales and DJs after a certain time but it’s dangerous to deny water and food.

We need to respect the diversity of riders. It’s not possible for everyone to finish their ride by 4pm, and you actually wouldn’t want that because it would cause the route to be even more congested than it already is. Personally, I get claustrophobic when there are too many bikes around me and I prefer to ride later in the day (don’t mind the sun/heat) where the crowd is a little thinner. Let people spread themselves out throughout the day, and let them buy water/food!


direwolf, January 29, 2022 at 9:04 pm

Safety? Sure. Logistical efficiency? OK. But I think we should visit a heretofore undiscussed concept: shunting maximum disposable income to the overnight town. I have no quarrel with that concept, given what an overnight town goes through to host RAGBRAI. Why else would we get booted at 1:30 PM halfway through a 40-mile day into Indianola? Will that happen again on the presumably short days Pocahontas –> Emmetsburg and Mason City–> Charles City? Fond RAGBRAI reminisces are rife with accounts of nooks in pass-through towns and roadsides. Almost no one waxes poetic about the carnage in overnight towns. Riders set to ride at daybreak, I guess, are willing to miss Hair Ball’s last set. Then too, it’s all good.


Joseph Schlau, January 30, 2022 at 7:14 am

Oh wow! The heretofore undiscussed shunting maximum disposable income to the overnight town conspiracy theory. I’m still trying to sort out the moon landing coverup.

How will I ever be able to live a full life if I did not hear Hair Ball. Almost no one but you waxes poetic about the carnage this may cause.


HelenP, January 30, 2022 at 8:18 am

It would be awful if someone had to explain a death due to intentionally withheld water or other essentials.

All day long, until very late, every city and town on a day’s route should have available basic:

bathroom facilities of some kind,
medical help,
shelter from the weather, and
some way to contact local transportation.

There should be signage to show how to find them.

Obviously, the main bulk of kybos and vendors should go with the main flow of riders, but it’s not difficult to arrange for a garden hose, a 7-Eleven, a church, an on-call nurse, etc., to be available all the time.

Note that the overnight camps should have these essentials at all times, too. There were substantial problems with that at many main camps last year.

Yes, my first RAGBRAI was quite a nightmare. I observed countless times where others were desperate due to lack of water and facilities, too, both at pass-through towns and in main camps. I was chronically dehydrated & starved & filthy, was stranded, was taken to a medical wagon, and caught multiple illnesses as a direct result of those essentials being missing for days. I’m still not sure I’ll even return to RAGBRAI.


Thanks again for saving us, generous Iowans, Team Mosquito and other helpful participants!


HelenP, January 30, 2022 at 8:19 am

Other Suggestions

Also, a simple web page where riders could request a SAG wagon, medical help, etc. — including their ID number, location, and a short comment — would make things easier. Responders could post a reply in the same way. A separate forum here on the existing website might suffice, or perhaps some placeholder account(s) could created to which people could privately mail messages.

Oh, and if the route signs could be a distinctive color on their back sides, too, it would really help the many people who miss a turn and need to backtrack to find the route signs again.

Likewise, if a simple floor fan could be left running (at somewhere like the info. desk or shower building in each camp) it would be great to walk by it for a faceful of cooling during sweltering afternoons. We find they’re great at steamy summer dances here in the east US.

None of the above would be difficult, costly, or time-consuming to implement.

In fact, having at least snacks, etc., for purchase at camps would bring in some money. Some boxfuls, a money jar, and a price list at the info. desk would be so very simple to do.


wrj, January 30, 2022 at 8:37 am

“Professional” shutdown time riders find a shady spot to wait it out. After a time everything opens up again and they can then find what they are seeking. If you find yourself behind the shutdown, just wait it out. No worries.

This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by wrj.


Randall Murphy, January 30, 2022 at 9:23 am

Joseph, you may not know it but if you’ve been within a mile of the main stage and listened to a bad off-tune band playing waaaay too late you’ve already heard them. You just didn’t know it.

I like the moon landing reference – that’s good.

Just my two cents worth on the reports of the troopers past shut down activity: if they’re true, (and I wasn’t there but I do believe the number of reported incidents), I believe that they are the result of poor communication and inexperience. Somehow the wrong times were communicated to the troopers shutting the towns down and their inexperience with the needs of bike riders riding in the heat caused the poor decisions. Certainly I’m not defending the actions of the troopers and I’m pretty sure that in retrospect they would like to have them back. Denying basic needs to riders in the heat is indefensible. But I will defend the troopers themselves. These guys aren’t the enemy. Many of them volunteer for the assignment and have fun with it, playing music at intersections, good natured harassing of the riders passing, etc. I’ve seen many of the same faces working the intersections over the last sixteen years.
To take a page out of Aaron Rogers book from a few years ago, we should all R-E-L-A-X. Matt is on it and the State Police are listening. Let’s give them a chance. And we, as riders, need to understand that there is a rolling hard stop for SAG, traffic control and emergency medical support every day that is intended to be for our safety. This is a good thread to bring this up and I think that this years edition of the ride will be better for it. Ok, maybe that was three cents worth. Sorry.


Joseph Schlau, January 30, 2022 at 9:59 am

Oh, I thought that noise was someone stepping on a cat’s tail. It was the band.

On the serious side, Matt did have the ISP officer on stage Friday to let everyone know this is being worked on. Unfortunately riders with real issues are being lumped into the same group of riders whose only issue is being able to peel the spandex from the bar stool.

And as one poster stated, the professionals know how to find the place in the shade.


jelly0317, January 30, 2022 at 10:23 am

“I was chronically dehydrated & starved & filthy…and caught multiple illnesses as a direct result of those essentials being missing for days.” I can’t recall hearing that level of hyperbole even at the height of the e-bike flamewar. If true, I’d suggest that you choose a vacation which requires absolutely no responsibility or preparedness on your part.


JasonMichael, January 30, 2022 at 10:50 am

“Professional” shutdown time riders find a shady spot to wait it out. After a time everything opens up again and they can then find what they are seeking. If you find yourself behind the shutdown, just wait it out. No worries.

Ive been riding for almost 20 years, and Ive always been a back of the pack “Professional shutdown rider” What you describe used to be the case, but no longer. In the past few years, the shutdown enforcement by ISP has become extremely heavy handed, and even hostile at times. They also camp out longer to ensure services remain closed. Waiting for services, and I mean bars, to reopen requires riders to stay even further back in the pack to the point that it becomes impossible to get into the overnight towns before dark.

Getting the bulk of riders into the overnight before traffic and Sag services end should be a safety priority. That being said, it seems foolish to think that they will be able to get everyone off the road before dark, which seems to be the goal. In pursuing this, they’ve created more issues that affect everyone that happens to be in the back, not just us the ones looking to tie one on.


flyinbrian, January 30, 2022 at 11:11 am

This has been an eye opening thread. When I read Matt’s post about that problem I assumed it was just partiers complaining. I’m usually at the overnight town between 10-12 and maybe 1-2 on a Karras loop day so I don’t see the shutdowns ever. I absolutely agree with shutting down alcohol sales as that will move the drunks along but shutting down food and water is dangerous, irresponsible and just plain stupid.


flyinbrian, January 30, 2022 at 11:12 am

Wendy, if you leave real early you can also avoid crowds. It’s one of the reasons I leave by 6 every morning.


HelenP, January 30, 2022 at 11:19 am

In quite a few pass-through towns, I had quiet conversations with waitstaff, vendors, and police officers about the situation, and they all said they weren’t happy to be enforcing the shutdowns like that. In one case, the waitstaff literally refused to serve me a cold nonalcoholic drink that I’d already paid for, saying it was out of fear that the town would lose RAGBRAI.

If it’s so important to motivate the riders to move along, wouldn’t a polite announcement 5-10 minutes earlier have been far more effective? I hear that honey catches more flies than vinegar does.


Randall Murphy, January 30, 2022 at 12:15 pm

Thanks jelly, I agree. Where has the notion of personal responsibility gone?
Here’s another thought….is bicycling while intoxicated or bicycling under the influence against the law in Iowa? I don’t know. If it is, I would suggest that the definition of ‘under the influence’ is narrowly interpreted during the week. What if, and I’m just saying, what if that definition was more broadly defined after a reasonable closing time for the pass through towns, or even at any of the towns that we visit? Think about it. Maybe we should just back carefully away from the thin ice here and get back to safety. After all, we are their guests and they try to show us a good time while we’re there. Let’s not abuse it.


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