Thank you for your interest in Pork Belly Ventures, the best RAGBRAI Charter Service on the road. The Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa is the biggest bike ride in the world, a moving festival, whose route from the Muddy Missouri to the Mighty Mississippi is characterized by hills and heat, pigs and ponds, barns and silos, and rows of corn all the way to the horizon. As one of the 10,000-plus cyclists from all over the world who converge on Iowa every summer during the last week of July, you can expect a step back in time, an athletic challenge, friendly and interesting fellow riders, and all the pie, watermelon, sweet corn and hospitality your Iowa hosts can dish out. We invite you to come and pass the corn!
For over twenty years, we at Pork Belly have devoted much of each summer to planning, strategizing, and coordinating our ever-better services for the benefit of our team members. Our hardy Porkers come from all walks of life-cardiologists and teachers, stock brokers and firemen, grandparents and gen-Xers-and from all over the country and the world. We serve long-time friends and first-time RAGBRAIers every summer. While we love to welcome our old buddies back to Iowa, meeting new ones and sharing a first RAGBRAI with a newcomer are great pleasures, too. So, if you're friendly and you regularly exercise your sense of humor, you'll be right at home with Pork Belly Ventures.
You're probably wondering about a few things, like who we are, what we do for our team, and a whole lot of logistical stuff. In the Q & A format below, we'll do our best to help you with that information, and if you don't find an answer to a question, please don't hesitate to write us (hit "Contact"). We'd love to hear from you. Read on...
Who runs this thing? Pork Belly Ventures (PBV) is operated by Pete Phillips and Tammy Pavich (my brother and me). We've been on this ride for over 20 years, 11 of them on bikes. We know what a rider needs and we pride ourselves on making improvements to our service every year. Our large family and our crew help us take care of the PBV team.
What does PBV expect of its team members? Very little, really. Be good to our crew. Read your email updates and do what they say. Tell jokes if you know any. Help us learn your names. Be friendly and courteous to our crew. Keep our campsites clean. Be pleasant to our crew. Don't miss an opportunity to help a fellow Porker. Be of good cheer. Roll with it. And above all, be nice to our crew.
What are the dates of the ride? The ride always occurs during the last FULL week in July. The seven-day ride is Sunday to Saturday. That means that we will meet up with most of you on the Saturday immediately prior to the ride, either at the Omaha airport, at the Mississippi River ride's-end town (for the east/west shuttle), or at the first host town campground.
How can I find out this year's route? Check www.ragbrai.org. The Des Moines Register (ride sponsor) typically announces the route in early February. We cannot establish our pricing for services until the route is announced, but when the announcement is made, we'll get our prices and invitation letter on our website and in the mail asap. Whether or not the route has been announced, you can always plan to fly into and out of Omaha, and Pork Belly Ventures will get you to/from the bike ride smoothly and comfortably.
How do I get an official RAGBRAI XXXIII Wristband? Go to www.ragbrai.org and download the official Des Moines Register entry form and waiver, complete them, and send them and your fee to the Register by the deadline of April 1st. By May, you'll know whether you're chosen. If you are not selected, NO WORRIES, you can get one from us. Each year, people cancel and call us to sell. In nearly 20 years, we've never failed to find a wristband for someone. We fully support the Register, so you must have an official wristband to travel with us.
What services can be purchased from Pork Belly Ventures? We offer five services.
1) Bus from Omaha Airport to RAGBRAI Start Town. On Saturday before the ride, we'll meet you at Omaha's Eppley Airport and transport you (and your bike and gear) on a luxury motorcoach to our campsite in the town where the ride begins. Depending on distance to the first host town, we’ll have departures every couple of hours throughout the day on Saturday, with the last bus rolling at 4:00 p.m. (Plan to arrive Omaha by 3:30 at the latest.)
2) East/West Shuttle. Want to leave your car where the ride ends? Early on the Saturday before the ride, we can meet you at the designated parking area in the end town and transport you (and your bike and gear) on a luxury motorcoach to our campsite in the town where the ride begins.
3) Weeklong Support. We can take you and your belongings across Iowa for the week, from first town to last town, providing a whole host of support services, described below.
4) Bus Return from Ride's End to Omaha Airport. On the Saturday the ride ends, we can transport you and your bike back from the ride's end to our Omaha Airport hotel, so you can catch your flight home on Sunday. (Services 1, 3, and 4 make up our round-trip Omaha package.)
5) Optional Tent Rental and Daily Set-up. This optional service takes a lot of the work out of RAGBRAI. It includes the use of our Cabelas XPG three-season tent, daily set-up and take-down, and moving your baggage to and from your tent each day. You get up each morning and leave your packed bags inside the tent. In the next host town, you will find your bags inside the tent. If you rent a tent, we will assign you a position on our tent grid, called Tent City, and your tent will have an address card bearing the tent number and the occupants’ last name/s. In each host town, you will have the same location within Tent City, so finding your tent each day will be easy. We are happy to place friends next door to each other. (Note: We work hard to have all tents up by noon, but obstacles like inclement weather and host-town traffic can put us behind. If you pride yourself on arriving very early in camp, we don't recommend using the tent service—you'll be happier if you just set up your own tent on your own schedule.) The tent service is available only to those on our weeklong support.
You may select any combination of these services. We use comfortable, quality coaches.
How much do these services cost? Please email us for pricing.
What's so special about Pork Belly Ventures? What do you do for me? First, our campsites. The competition for real estate is tough, and we start weeks before the ride, scouting out the best Location, Location, LOCATION in each host town. We consider it our job to secure the preferred campsites for our team, selecting for shade, showers, and amenities. As you pedal into each host town, you'll find directional signs to the Pork Belly camp with its shady canopy, Cool Zone misting fans, and ice cold beverages (small charge). Come in under the canopy and join a conversation or a cribbage game. Ask a fellow Porker where to find supper. When we have water access, you're welcome to soap up and cool off at Pete's Shower Thingy, an ingenious contraption that bathes four or five Porkers at a time. We designed it for filling water bottles and brushing teeth, but some folks consider it the best shower on the ride. If you bring an electronic device and charger, you can plug into one of our Juice Thingys, the largest of which is a tower of numbered electrical outlets, 104 of them. Got a gear problem? Afternoons, Dan and Doug set up for bike repair. The labor of PBV's expert mechanics is free to you (tips are encouraged). They can do just about anything, but on RAGBRAI they are set up for minor repairs and adjustments. Some of the busiest people on RAGBRAI are PBV's five private massage therapists, who take appointments for 30, 60, or 90 minutes. There’s just nothing like their strong fingers to help your muscles recover or to put you to sleep! Head over to their tents and treat yourself!
Come Sunday evening, we'll host our annual ice-breaker party. Expect great live music, a delicious and healthy meal, and some surprises, all free to Pork Bellies. Every morning, you'll awaken to the smell of fresh-brewed coffee, and you're welcome to it, free of charge. Our midweek laundry service will be provided (additional fee) by our nieces, Sara and Erin. Imagine the morale boost of folded, fragrant clothing and towels! Every year we host a variety of evening events: in the past we've had folk music as the sun sinks low, dinner with the infamous Pork Chop Man, private concerts from the best Irish band in this country (a huge hit), exhibition rugby and Little League games, and lots more. Toward the end of the week, we'll host our Pork Belly Cook Out, The Sizzle. Choose something (a burger, brat, or chicken breast) to throw on the grill and we'll get the coals hot, put aprons on our chefs, and provide side dishes, plates, forks, and all the rest. Friday evening, we’ll we host a farewell party at which you can begin planning your next RAGBRAI.
Over the six months prior to the ride, you'll receive a series of email updates—and notably our informative June Letter—telling you just what to do and expect in July. First-timers will benefit from the Tips available at our site and the advice we pass on from our RAGBRAI veterans to help newcomers prepare. If you want to ship your bike to us before the ride, we’ll tell you when and how, and we can store bike boxes and hardshell cases during the week—free to all weeklong Porkers. You can always get in touch with us by e-mail or phone and we'll write right back or give you a call. And when the ride is over, we'll send you a farewell letter, recounting the week's highlights.
There's more, so write and ask for our invitation letter. Please check out our Testimonials page for what Porkers had to say about our service last year. Of course, much of the credit goes to our hard-working, cheerful, helpful crew and family—a group of some thirty-plus people whose goal is to support you. We're proud to say that we don't have to hire all new people every year as some charters do. Our gang comes back summer after summer. You can bet they'll treat you with courtesy and humor, so give it back, please.
If I'm already buying a wristband from the Register, why pay PBV? Before you go it alone, stop and think. After an 86-mile ride, you are simultaneously thirsty, tired, hot, hungry, dirty, possibly wet, and almost grumpy. Option A: search for duffel in the Register's sea of duffels, drag bags and bikes to some leftover scrap of sun-baked ground, set up tent, leave all precious belongings in lonely tent to search out shower, search out food, search out bike repair, search out everything else, do it all by yourself, and get four, or three-and-a-half, or make that three hours sleep in spite of the Team Beer Hounds party next door. Sounds complicated, doesn't it? OR Option B: ride into camp to find dry bags and clothes (we protect them when it rains), friendly people, cold drinks, shady canopy, bulletin board with campground directions, adorable pig, grassy tent space, massage table with your name on it, and just about every service you desire. Surround yourself with a community of fellow Porkers. Not that you'll need him, but we even have a licensed paramedic among our crew. For all its simplicity, RAGBRAI is tough. Allow yourself the support you need. It's the difference between seven ugly days of pure survival and a week of pure simplicity. You'll find charters that cost less than we do, but as you compare, make sure you look at service. We don't mean to be immodest, but PBV is the best value on RAGBRAI. Nobody else is close.
What if I have a problem or a special situation? By all means, ask. We'll help you if we can.
Should I make hotel reservations in Omaha before or after the ride? Our service begins and ends at a designated airport hotel in Omaha, Nebraska. The hotel reservation number will be included in each year's invitation letter. If you choose to fly into Omaha on Friday before the ride or out of Omaha on the Sunday after, we offer you our block of rooms at greatly reduced rates. Again, Omaha hotel reservations are only necessary for the Friday before RAGBRAI and the Saturday on which it ends. All nights in between, you'll be in host towns.
What is the advantage of booking a round trip into and out of Omaha and letting PBV do the rest? You do three things... book your airline, book the hotel, and book the full service with PBV (Services 1, 3, and 4). That's it. We'll meet your flight, deliver you on a luxury coach to the first town, and take care of you for eight days. At the end of the ride, climb aboard our Omaha-bound coach. We drive. You relax, even sleep. After a meal stop, we'll drop you in Omaha about 11:00 p.m. at the door of your hotel. On Sunday, the hotel's free shuttle takes you to the airport. A word to the wise: you'll hear about general admission airport shuttles on the east side of the state. But can you imagine yourself, without a car, trying to get a meal and a shower, and trying to find your ride in a partying town where 10,000 other people are trying to find their rides? Keep it simple. Book our round trip into/out of Omaha.
What is the advantage of using the PBV East/West Shuttle? This option is attractive to people who live within driving distance, east of Iowa. You drive to the end-town and leave your car at the designated parking area. (On Friday night, you can camp or stay in a nearby hotel.) Our bus will meet you there early on Saturday morning. By late afternoon, we'll have you, your gear, and your bike in RAGBRAI's first host town. You bike for seven days, back to your car.
Can I have a good time on RAGBRAI without training very much? When pigs fly. Simple concept: The more you train, the more fun you'll have. Some say you need 500 miles under your belt before coming to Iowa. Some say more. Ride hills. Ride day-after-day. Make friends with your saddle. Read our tips.
How can I get into the PBV loop? By writing to Pete right now at email@example.com. He'll put you on our email database. (If you're already on it, no need to write again. Remember to tell your spam filters to let us in.)
Well, that's about it for FAQs. If you wisely decide to join us, count on our comprehensive June letter for details about hooking up with us and a description of PBV's day-to-day routine during the ride. We'll suggest shipping your bike to us a few days ahead of time to avoid loss, damage, and hassle. Again, if your questions have not been answered here, don't hesitate to write to us.
RAGBRAI can change your life. We know a lot of people who have come to Iowa for a break from their hectic lives and never been the same. You wouldn't think that breaking camp at the crack of dawn, riding around 75 miles a day, standing in line for portapotties, and sleeping on the ground would have a favorable effect on one's personality. But, there's just something about it-the laid-back feeling, the constant laughter, the camaraderie, the beauty of that stream of bikes as far as you can see, the good-ache in muscles, hard earned pie-and-ice-cream, and the impact of small kindnesses from others on a daily basis-that just sticks with you. This ride attracts friendly, healthy people like you! We thank you for your interest in our charter and we hope you'll give us the chance to welcome you to Pork Belly and to Iowa.