January 27, 2013
Maybe you're aware of a recent trend in vacation travel whereby regular Joes go into boot-camp training, get all buffed up, and then set off to compete in some worst-nightmare obstacle race that would bring Bruce Willis to tears. These are muddy, Spartan, warrior-style ordeals, with a Special Forces flavor. It's normal for these extreme-type participants to get hauled off to hospitals for fractures, dislocations, exposure, and the like. Apparently people are wild for this stuff.
We're pretty cutting-edge ourselves here at Pork Belly Ventures, and we're not about to be outdone by ripple-bellied newcomers to the world of adventure travel. Why, for twenty years now, we've been operating our bicycle charter on the longest obstacle course in the country-the State of Iowa in late July. While we can't offer you challenges like Trench Warfare and Kiss of Mud, we are proud to present Duffel Dive and Smack of Sweat. We don't have anything like Hanging Tough, but many of you are familiar with Kybo Klench, a test of inner fortitude if ever there was one. Our answer to the dreaded Arctic Enema is Pete's Shower Thingy, which will flash-freeze your capillaries and make you shriek like a girl.
So don't go signing up for any Tough Mudder, Porkers. Toughen up that butt and pit yourself against other Tough Butters. We cordially invite you to join us for RAGBRAI XLI.
Now this Spartan-warrior stuff is not for everybody, which is why you'll be accompanied by a cast of seventy easy-going, hard-working, fun-loving people, aka The Pork Belly Crew, some of whom are pictured throughout this letter (ask for the email version by writing to email@example.com). Tough Guys one and all, they will begin at 4:30 am and work until nearly midnight to do the following: brew your morning coffee, load and unload your bags, erect our grid of rental tents, ice down your cold drinks, hand you the towel on your way to your hot shower, hoist our circus tents, crank up the generators, plug in the Thingys and misting fans, adjust your gears, rub your sore muscles, serve delicious grub, put on parties, and a lot more. Take a look at our slide show at pkbelly.com to see our crew in action. There will be obstacles, yes. Some of them tough. But with the hale and hardy Pork Belly Crew at your side, you will laugh your way past them all.
Read on, Porkers. The important stuff, like the dates and route, our newest features, and our list of 2013 services and prices are the next things you'll find in this letter. After that, we've arranged our Frequently Asked Questions into these categories: 1) Registration with PBV and with RAGBRAI; 2) Hotels, Parking, and Bike Shipping; and 3) Other Important Questions. You might scan this letter today and read it more carefully later, but do scroll to the end and check out What You Need to Do Right Now.
DATES, ROUTE, AND THE PRICES OF PBV SERVICES
What are the ride dates? The ride begins before dawn on Sunday, July 21st, and ends on Saturday, July 27th. That means that we'll meet up with most of you on Saturday, the 20th, either at the Omaha airport, the end-town long-term parking area, or at the PBV campground in the start town. A considerable number of you will fly or drive into Omaha on Friday, the 19th, and stay in one of our designated airport hotels. Most of those using our East/West Shuttle will drive to the end town on Friday, the 19th. Camping will be available there on Friday night, or you can find a nearby hotel.
What is this year's route? It's short, it's south, and we're going through Des Moines. Here it is, hot off the press, the 2013 RAGBRAI route. We will muster on the 20th in our hometown of Council Bluffs. From there, we'll follow a north route to Harlan (56), and Perry (86), and Des Moines (49), and Knoxville (49), and Oskaloosa (52), and Fairfield (52), and finally Ft. Madison (63) in the southeast corner of the state. This is the shortest route in RAGBRAI history, and it's about the fifteenth easiest. In other words, you can do this thing. Later on, we'll give you more details about the places we'll call home during our week in the corn.
Any new stuff from PBV? Now that we have real coffee, real showers, real bathrooms, and a whole host of Thingys, it's getting a little more challenging to think up new stuff. Pete, however, has risen to that challenge. As usual, we plan over the whole season, so there will probably be more, but for now, here's a summary of the new developments we are planning, as well as a summary of recent additions to our service.
In 2013, the guys are at work on a new trailer for charging electronic devices. Basically, everybody will get their own teeny locking compartment on this trailer. Each compartment will have a couple outlets inside, so friends or family can share a locking compartment. The plexiglass doors will allow you to check on your device without unlocking. We'll have some slightly larger compartments for tablets, too. We don't have a theft problem, but it reallysucks to get our shorts in a wad when somebody accidentally takes the wrong iPhone. This new Juice Thingy will fix it, and it will give everyone a chance to juice up around the clock. (Bring your own little luggage-type padlock, please.)
Also new this year, rather than a regular cotton t-shirt, we are including a dri-fit shirt for each person on our Weeklong Support. The application will ask you for your shirt size, so don't forget to include that. Design will be a surprise (code for "shirt design is on our to-do list, and we'll think of something fun to follow the Peace Love Pork art of last year").
Other ideas in the hopper for this year, to be announced sometime before July. Or not. We may just spring the new stuff on you when you get here.
Last year, Pete forbade me to breathe a word about our new restroom trailer, pictured above. He didn't want to over-promise. Now that we know it works properly, even after the eighteen-thousandth flush, we can talk freely. Pete, Dad, Mick, and Dave Kennedy built the 20-foot Portable Restroom Trailer in the spring of last year, and boy, it's nice to have a porcelain alternative to the standard kybo! Our trailer is equipped with six toilet stalls, a walk-through urinal area, all with flushing fixtures. There are power roof vents, light fixtures, hand-sanitizing dispensers inside, and two sinks with soap dispensers outside. We'll probably dim the lights a bit this year--it was blinding in there at 2:00 am. Mirrors and paper towels are in the sink area at the front of the trailer. In Pork Camp, the restroom trailer will typically be located near the shower trailers of Pork Belly Ventures.
Also in 2012, we tried to expand on our specially arranged comforts and amenities. We invited local bakeries, supermarkets, delis, and churches (one each day) to provide healthy and delicious breakfast items next to our coffee truck from 4:30 to 7:00 a.m., for a reasonable price. That was a hit, and so were the local lunch venders we lined up nearly every day in Pork Camp. Heck, when you come in from the road hungry, you gotta eat. We doubled our midweek hotel stay, offering this option on two different nights. We worked with a nearby day-care center in Webster City and a neighboring church in Cedar Rapids to provide inexpensive indoor sleeping in the a/c. Those options all sold out. We'll be aiming for at least the same number of in-camp food venders and comfy sleeping options this year.
Back in 2011 and 2010, we started making root beer floats on a couple of afternoons, we added hot showers in camp, started our bike-shipping service, and offered trip cancellation protection. We're still doing the morning coffee, evening entertainment, shade canopies with misting/cooling, deep-tissue massage all afternoon and evening, and excellent, friendly bike mechanics available from 3:00 on. The list below is a more comprehensive inventory of Weeklong Support inclusions.
Our cardinal rule is "never go backwards," so we hope never to offer less than we did last year. We will continue to imagine new Pork Perks and better Pork Pleasures. Pete and the guys will keep inventing Pork Thingys to expand the Pork Infrastructure. See the full description of our support below.
What are Pork Belly's services and prices? Prices are not listed at our website. Please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com.
Prices either went up a little, came down a little, or stayed the same. No big changes. Below this section you'll find full descriptions of our Weeklong Support and other services.
Bus from Omaha Airport to the Start Town
On Saturday, the 20th, we'll meet you at Omaha's Eppley Airport and transport you, your baggage, and your bike to our campsite in the start town, the RAGBRAI start town. (Last bus will depart by 4:30 p.m.)
If you want to park your car in the end town before the ride, we'll meet you there early on Saturday the 20th and transport you, your baggage, and your bike to the start town
Weeklong Support for Rider.
While you bicycle from host town to host town, we can transport your baggage across Iowa for the week, from west to east, providing meals, entertainment, your daily shower and towel fee, and many amenities and support services, described more fully below. We can prorate the price of Weeklong Support for partial-week clients.
Weeklong Support for Non-riders is available, but please contact us for a visit about your week.
Return Bus to Omaha.
On Saturday, the 27th, we'll transport you, your baggage, and your bike from the end town to an Omaha Airport hotel (see Hotel section below), so you can fly or drive home on Sunday.
Eastern Iowa Airport Shuttle
On Saturday, the 27th, we'll transport you and your baggage from the end town to the nearest international airport in the Quad Cities.
Optional Tent Rental and Daily Set-up.
See full description and details below. Available only to those on our Weeklong Support.
Round-trip Des Moines Bus Service
Now that we have our route, we'll look into this possibility. We'll publish schedule and price soon in an email update.
Our services are available on an ala carte basis. You may use any combination of these services (except that the optional Tent Rental and Daily Set-up are available only to those on our weeklong support). We use only comfortable, quality motorcoaches, restroom-equipped and air-conditioned.
What all is included in PBV's Weeklong Support in 2013? We plan all year, so we can't yet include every good thing in the list below. But here's what we do for Weeklong Porkers (and for those who prorate the week with us). A few items like massage and laundry are optional, reasonably priced, and extremely convenient to have available right in your campsite; however, most of the features listed below are simply included at no additional cost to you. There's nothing basic about it, but here's what you can expect with Pork Belly's "basic" Weeklong Support:
Baggage transport from host town to host town (standard with any charter)
Excellent, well-appointed, spacious RESERVED campsites
PBV Locations on a laminated card at check-in
Team Shirt, poly-dri, design to be announced. Be sure to include your shirt size when you apply online at www.pkbelly.com.
New in 2013, an improved Juice Thingy Trailer for charging electronic devices. This new trailer is under construction now, and will provide lockable compartments with electrical outlets inside. You'll be able to lock up your iPhone so that nobody can take it by mistake. We hope to have a few larger compartments for tablets, too. Charging is available 24 hours.
New in 2012, our Royal Flush, the restroom trailer, with flushing toilets and urinals, sinks and soap-dispensers, mirrors and lights, so much better than a kybo!
Your Daily Shower and Towel. Pork Belly Ventures provides hot, private showers in camp. The shower trailers are air-conditioned, and you'll find soap and shampoo dispensers in every stall. Your PBV wristband admits you to the shower, so yes, you may take more than one a day if you like!
Old-fashioned, delicious Iowa root beer floats sometime during the week, probably more than once.
Our Open-Air Living Rooms (huge shady circus tents) with chairs and a misting system to refresh you
Our friendly Front Desk crew, ready to direct you to showers, kybos, and local amenities
Hot Coffee We start brewing at 4:30 a.m., three gallons of Dunkin' Donuts every eight minutes. Help yourself! Hot chocolate and hot tea, too.
Ice-cold beverages, some free and some cheap, about 90 cents each
Three Delicious Suppers in Camp. We aim for nutritious and delicious menus provided by the best local caterers. After our May scouting trips, we'll give you this year's menus.
Massage! Seven or eight therapists this year, strong and superb, working in camp (additional charge). No fluff-and-buff, here. Expect a deep-tissue, athletic massage.
Professional Bike Mechanics, great guys and girls, set up in camp daily from 3:00 p.m. on to help you with minor repairs.
PBV's Midweek Laundry Service (optional, extra charge) We'll take your stuff from wet and smelly to dry, fresh, and folded.
Shower Thingy This table, plumbed with five spigots, is equipped with a mirror and a wringer for your bike shorts. Fill water bottles, shave, brush your teeth. This Thingy is available in the morning until 7:00 a.m.
Pump Thingy, a special compressor and pressure regulator to make pumping your tires a breeze.
Free weeklong storage of your hard-shell bike case or bike box-$20 value, free to weeklong Porkers. Luxury SAG Service Details below, additional charge.
More than fifty friendly, able-bodied, can-do crew members (not including bike mechanics or massage therapists) to help, comfort, and revive you.
Other Needs: come to the equipment truck and ask for a band-aid, a plastic cup, a hammer for your tent stakes, whatever. During the waking hours, there is always an available crew member or crew chief to answer your questions or help you. We always have three or more paramedics on our crew. If you don't know who to ask, start at the front desk.
Around 30 informative email updates to help you plan and prepare
PBV Host-Town Maps sent to you in PDF format, showing our campsites in relationship to other amenities, with GeoBike Elevation Statistics for each RAGBRAI day
Prompt answers to your questions on email and by phone
Our comprehensive June Letter with virtually all the info you need in one document
New in 2012, the Pork Belly App for Smartphones, to help you learn more about our charter and RAGBRAI before the ride, with useful tools like route maps and host-town maps during the ride
A compilation of Tips for First-Timers from our RAGBRAI Veterans
An opportunity to ship your bike through SendMyBike.com to PBV in Iowa
Several May scouting trips to host towns to reserve great campsites
Upon arrival, mechanical assistance with uncrating your bike and getting it road ready
At the end of RAGBRAI:
Packaging of your bike to ship home--just hand it over (additional charge, see below)
A special FedEx receiving area right in our camp at the end town for shipped bikes
A fond-farewell letter that recounts the week's highlights
An audio-visual memento of our week together
*Each town's host committee has the final say on shower venders. It's possible that a town may prefer that we use another vender. When we scout in early May, we'll make arrangements in each town, and in any case, every Porker will receive a daily shower from PBV.
Do I need that much support? Well, you might like it. Most of our clients have grown to appreciate more support. They want to focus on enjoying each day's ride. They depend on us for the lively little Pork village that they can call home within the throng of RAGBRAI. Our Weeklong Support could mean the difference between a complicated, exhausting bike trip and a carefree athletic adventure. This is your vacation after all, and we hope we don't seem immodest when we say that the extra $200 you spend for our Weeklong Support (as opposed to a typical baggage service) could be the best money you spend all week.
We have clients of all ages, but we're particularly proud of those in their late sixties and their seventies, who regularly make RAGBRAI a part of their summer. These folks appreciate our level of support, as do our clients who are dealing with some kind of medical challenge. We can refrigerate medication. We have three licensed paramedics on our crew. We provide a comfortable (and legal) option for sagging on any given day of RAGBRAI.
But maybe you actually don't need that much support, and hey, there are many great ways to do this ride. If price is the main consideration, you can find any number of good lower-priced options, though that will probably mean spending more of your afternoons and evenings scouting the overnight towns for things you need--your shower, a bike mechanic, a snack, a meal, a cold drink, a shady place to sit and meet other RAGBRAIers, an electrical outlet, a massage, perhaps some entertainment.
What's included in Pork Belly's Tent Rental and Daily Set-up? Our Cabela's XPG Deluxe Three-Season tent is 63 square feet (8.5' X 7.5'). It's actually advertised as a four-man tent. With duffels inside, we consider it a roomy two-man. You can share, or like the majority, you can occupy it alone. Tent-renters simply pack up their bags in the morning, leave them inside the tent, and pedal away. Enjoy your ride, and in the next host town you'll find your chores are already done--tent up with bags inside--so you can relax and have a cold one or head off to the shower immediately. We'll set up Tent City on the same grid every day, and color-coded address cards on each tent will help you locate yours. We are happy to arrange the grid so that friends are next door to each other. This service has sold out in the past, so it might be wise to claim your tent early.
Please note these limitations: We'll aim for set-up by noon each day, but host town traffic or inclement weather might put us a bit 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. We don't recommend three to a tent unless you're all pretty small or one occupant is a child, and there's an extra charge of $100 for handling the third person's baggage. This price includes seven nights, from Saturday night to Friday night of RAGBRAI. It's available only to those on our weeklong support.
Suppose I want to bring my own tent. That's absolutely fine. Most of our Porkers do that. We'll carry your tent and other gear (two-bag-per-person limit) from town to town, and we'll have plenty of camping space for everyone.
What's included with the daily Pork shower? Your daily, hot, private shower with a towel is included in your Weeklong Support. Each bather has a private dressing area outside the shower stall; you keep your stuff with you, and it doesn't get wet. Shampoo and liquid soap are provided, and stalls are wiped down regularly throughout the day. Since your Pork Wristband admits you to the shower, you can take more than one shower per day if you like. And, if that's not enough, the trailers are air-conditioned. No question about it-this is the best shower on RAGBRAI. For the past three years, each host town has allowed our shower vender to be located right in Pork Camp every day.
What if I want to SAG, take a day off the bike? Depend on our cushy 56-passenger motorcoach and driver for the purpose of sagging riders who do not choose to cycle on a given day. We'll transport bikes by hanging them by a wheel, as we do on our east/west shuttle. You're welcome to place bags under the bus for immediate access to them in the next campsite. You'll depart each day at 7:00 a.m., and you'll be in our new camp by about 9:30 a.m. On some days, we'll make a breakfast stop. The bus has AC, the seats are soft, and you can snooze all the way to the next host town. The restroom is larger than a standard kybo. This is a very comfortable and secure way for you and your bike to get to the next host town for $25 per day. (There's a special price for non-cyclists spending the full week with us. If you don't bring a bike at all, the price is $150 for the week of town-to-town transfers, in addition to $390 for our Weeklong Support.)
What's the advantage of booking a round trip into and out of Omaha? Basically we take care of you from the time you hit baggage claim in Omaha to the time you step off our bus at your Omaha airport hotel on the evening of the 27th. You simply make air and hotel reservations and register with us. (See below for Pork Hotels.) We'll meet you at the Omaha airport and deliver you to the start town on a comfy coach. You're ours for eight days. At the end of the ride, climb aboard our Omaha-bound coach and doze off. After a meal stop, we'll drop you about 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. at our side-by-side airport hotels. On Sunday, the free hotel shuttle will take you to the airport.
Will Pork Belly offer a shuttle to an eastern Iowa airport? It looks like the Quad Cities International Airport is within range of the end town, and we will offer a shuttle on Saturday, the 27th. We need a little time to determine the schedule, and we'll give you more info soon in an email update.
Will Pork Belly offer a round-trip shuttle from/to a Des Moines hotel? Now that we have our route, we can look into this. We'll publish more information in an update soon. What is the advantage of using the PBV East/West Shuttle? It's ideal for people who live within driving distance of RAGBRAI's end town. You drive to the end town on Friday the 19th and park your car in the designated long-term parking (the host committee will charge a parking fee; see their website after May 1). Our crew will meet you there for bike-loading on Friday night and/or early on Saturday, the 20th. By mid to late afternoon, we'll have you and your bike in the start town. You bike for seven days, back to your car.
What if I don't even bike but want to experience RAGBRAI? That's fine. A handful of people do that with our charter every year. We'll carry you on our 57-passenger motorcoach from host town to host town. To arrange to join PBV as a non-rider, please contact us. (Note that non-riders traveling with charters may NOT bring their own vehicles, whether or not they have secured the RAGBRAI vehicle pass. This is a RAGBRAI rule, by which we must abide. If you're with a charter, you must use that charter's transportation and leave the vehicle passes for smaller families and groups.)
How Can I Get the Pork Belly Smartphone App?
Here's a word from Dave Kennedy, our App expert: "Many of you have already downloaded the free Pork Belly App to your smart phone. If not, search 'Pork Belly Ventures' to find it at the Apple App Store or the Android Play store. The app includes daily ride maps, custom maps of host towns and PBV Campsites, Pork Camp Orientation showing trailers and equipment, Pork Crew photos and bios, and much more.
"We are hard at work on a way to download both the PBV Host Town Maps and RAGBRAI Route Maps directly to your smart phone. Last year, it was sometimes difficult in the Data-Band-Width-Challenged areas on the route. We'll have a solution in place soon so that you'll get the full, intended benefit of the app during our favorite week of the year."
How do I apply for services of PBV? How do I access my completed application? There's no login tab. At www.pkbelly.com, hit "Apply" at the left of your screen and follow the prompts, clicking "Submit" at the end. To access your completed application, either use the link on your confirmation email OR go back to "Apply" and login using your username and password.
When do I have a FIRM reservation with Pork Belly Ventures? Our payment policy is modeled on the policy of RAGBRAI itself. Your online application at pkbelly.com is a first step. Some people apply to check prices; others apply just in case they might want to use our charter. The next step, making a payment, is the only way we know for sure that an applicant intends to join Pork Belly Ventures. Some folks, even after reading this part of our letter, will apply but not send payment, and that's okay. We are not writing this to pressure anybody into sending payment before they want to; however, we must keep accurate counts of how many people definitely intend to use each of our services.
So here's the way it works. When you submit the application form, you will receive an auto-generated confirmation and invoice. The confirmation says that we'll hold your reservation for 10 days while you send payment. You conscientious people do not have to overnight payment or send it two-day air. You won't lose your place in the amount of time it takes to send payment by U.S. Post. If 10 days elapse and we don't receive payment, your application will remain on file. No need to re-apply, and please don't. You will not be included in our count or have an actual reservation for services until we receive a payment from you. When you do send payment, you'll receive another email, acknowledging receipt of the payment. Your original application will move from tentative status to definite status, and we'll include you in our counts for services. Should a service sell out before you send payment, we could put you on a waiting list for that service. By the way, the rental tents are usually the first service to sell out. We've had a lot of inquiries about tents, and we'll see how long they last.
In the past, we have spent a great deal of time repeatedly calling and emailing people who haven't paid, reminding them about payment. We don't really do that anymore, but we will notify everyone via our email updates if/when services are getting tight on space. We hope these updates will help you determine when to secure your spot with payment. It's up to each Porker to decide when he or she needs to have a firm reservation.
Finally, please don't use the strategy of re-applying every ten days to avoid sending payment. This causes problems. We will hold your original registration indefinitely, and you can activate it anytime by paying. If you find it more convenient to wait, by all means do.
Should I re-apply if I have trouble accessing my account?
No. Your email confirmation contains a link to your original application, so that you don't even need your username and password. If you forget your password, contact us so that we can resend your confirmation. Please don't re-apply. Duplicate applications really mess things up.
What form of payment may I use? What amount do I pay now? We can take a check or money order in the mail. You can pay in full now; however, if it's more convenient for you to make two payments, please do one of two things. First, you can send half now and the remainder by May 15. Second, you can send one-third now and the remainder by May 15.
What is Pork Belly Ventures' cancellation policy? Please read this section and the next section on Trip Cancellation Protection carefully and contact us to make sure you understand BEFORE YOU REGISTER.
Before Saturday, June 15th, you can still cancel part or all of your PBV services and receive a 90% refund. You can drop services or cancel entirely by phone or email, and we'll send you a refund check quickly. We'll also try to find you a buyer for your wristband.
We will include our written cancellation policy in at least six email updates prior to the deadline of June 15th: on or after the 15th of June, we will make no refund.
What is PBV Trip Cancellation Protection?
First of all, if you have any trouble understanding this option, you should call or email us for an explanation. You have only one opportunity to purchase this protection, at the time of your original registration. Once you have registered, our website will not allow you to go back and select this protection; however, if WITHIN TWO DAYS OF YOUR APPLICATION DATE, you decide to add protection, you can call us to make the change for you.
Here are some of the things that have happened to our RAGBRAIers during the last month before RAGBRAI. The boss decided they couldn't be spared at work. They have been diagnosed with an illness. A member of their family has needed support through a crisis. People have been struck by a car while training for the ride. Their plans for childcare have fallen through. They have lost a loved one. Although we-and every other tour operator-must have a refund deadline and cancellation policy, and although ours is quite liberal, and even though we have published our cancellation policy at least six times prior to the deadline every year, we can't help but feel for those people who cancelled out of necessity after the June deadline. After attending a conference of bicycle tour directors and discussing this issue with other tour operators, we offer this solution.
If you want to extend the 90% refund all the way through until Friday, July 19th, you can click on "Trip Cancellation Protection" on the online registration form. The non-refundable fee for this protection is five percent of the value of services you have reserved with PBV. (One exception: check with us please for trip cancellation protection on the PHAT Trailer Accommodations.)
This protection covers only the period from June 15 to July 19. This protection is not applicable to people who travel to Iowa for RAGBRAI and leave the ride early for any reason. This protection applies only to fees paid to Pork Belly Ventures, not your RAGBRAI registration fee or other travel expenses. To use this protection, you must contact us by time-stamped email by 10:00 p.m. on Friday, July 19. Your refund will be processed at our earliest convenience, possibly in the early days of August, if your cancellation comes at the last moment.
In short, without protection, you stand to lose 100% of your fees paid to PBV after June 15th. But by spending 5% up front on a non-refundable fee, you can get the 90% refund if you cancel for any reason all the way through July 19th at 10:00 p.m. You may purchase this protection at the original time of registration ONLY.
For a shared rental tent, how do I apply? To avoid being billed for two tents instead of one shared tent, make sure that only one occupant registers for the tent. So if Jack and Jill are sharing, Jill should register for the tent and include Jack's name as her tent-mate. Jack should not register for the tent service.
Do I need a GROUP NAME when I register with Pork Belly Ventures? If two or more friends are joining Pork Belly, you should put a common group name on your registration forms, like "Miller Group" or "Tony's Friends." If you want to be assigned to the same bus or located near each other in Tent City (our grid of rental tents), you must have the same group name on your applications. (Individuals coming to PBV by themselves should NOT fill in a group name. Please leave it blank, rather than putting "just me" or "none.")
How do I get an official RAGBRAI Wristband? At ragbrai.com, register electronically by April 1. Note that snail mail applications are due much earlier. By May, you'll know the lottery results, but if you're not selected, don't worry. See next question.
NOTE: Most folks with Pork Belly Ventures realize that they MUST have an official RAGBRAI wristband to travel with us. Very few people have tried to dodge this rule. In June, we'll ask for your wristband number, and you must be wearing your RAGBRAI wristband before we can give you your Pork Belly wristband.
Should I wait to learn my fate in the lottery before registering with PBV?
Delay registering if you want to, but the lottery is not a good reason to do so. If you are concerned about getting a rental tent, they could be gone by May (though we always have a waiting list). In the unlikely event that you are not selected in the lottery, we will introduce you to a wristband seller and help you follow the Register's simple procedure for transferring wristbands. We aren't allowed to promise, but in over twenty years, we have never not found a wristband for a patient buyer.
If I'm driving to the end town on Friday, how can I get reservations at a hotel?
For hotel rooms in eastern Iowa near the end town, you may check the end-town website on about May 1st for nearby hotels. Or you might Google hotels relatively close to long-term parking. PBV will not have a designated hotel in eastern Iowa. Will weeklong parking be available at the end town? Yes, and our east/west shuttle is typically located very near the long-term parking area. Hold tight and check the end-town website after May 1 to learn where long-term parking will be located exactly. Camping, food, and showers are often provided in the end town on the Friday night before RAGBRAI, and we'll know more after we scout in May.
If I'm flying or driving into Omaha, will I need reservations at a hotel? On the nights of July 20th through the 26th, you will be camping with PBV, but if you're flying into Omaha on Friday, the 19th, and/or returning with us to Omaha late on Saturday evening, the 27th, you will need Omaha hotel reservations. We have room blocks for both nights at two side-by-side hotels.
What are PBV's designated Omaha airport hotels? Our two side-by-side hotels at the Omaha airport are the Holiday Inn Express and the Candlewood Suites. These hotels are owned by the same company and run by an excellent team of managers. Our contract ensures that guests at one hotel are welcome to the services of the other. Your breakfast and a swimming pool are located at Holiday Inn Express, and Candlewood guests will walk half a block for those services. All Pork Belly buses and trucks will load and unload on the north side of the Candlewood Suites. Pork Belly Ventures has room blocks at both hotels. There are advantages to both hotels, but walk half a block and you get all amenities, no matter where you stay. Your choice:
Holiday Inn Express, 402-505-4900: Mention our name to reserve your king or double queen room for $124. Hot breakfast served here (Candlewood guests will walk over for breakfast) Swimming pool located here (Candlewood guests have access, too) Hospitality areas available to our guests before and after RAGBRAI. Triple-sheeting is the standard at this hotel. Across the street from a large convenience store and Subway sandwich shop. Reasonable weeklong airport parking and valet service provided by Budget (about $5 per day) Free airport shuttle and Old Market shuttle provided by Budget. (Omaha's Old Market is a great place for shopping, music, and dining on the Friday before RAGBRAI.)
Candlewood Suites, 402-342-2500: Mention our name to reserve your king or double queen room for $124. Mention our name to reserve your king suite for $119, while they last. These lovely suites are normally reserved for extended stays only. Fold-out sofa in living room, peninsula seating in kitchen. North side of Candlewood is the site of our bus loading and unloading (Holiday Inn Express guests walk over and back.) The site of free laundry (Holiday Inn Express guests can do laundry here too.) Hospitality areas available to our guests before and after RAGBRAI. Triple-sheeting is the standard at this hotel. Across the street from a large convenience store and Subway. Reasonable weeklong airport parking and valet service provided by Budget (about $5 per day) Free airport shuttle and Old Market shuttle provided by Budget. (Omaha's Old Market is a great place for shopping, music, and dining on the Friday before RAGBRAI.) Breakfast served next door, but great little convenience store in the lobby with CHEAP everything.
NEW INFO: Because Holiday Inn is located in Iowa, and Candlewood Suites is located in Nebraska (yes, they are side-by-side), the tax on Candlewood is 6% more. And if you reserved at Candlewood online, please change your reservation by phoning the hotel directly. Your rate will be reduced to our negotiated rate of $124 per night.
All Pork Belly buses will depart from and return to the Omaha airport Candlewood Suites, one-half block from Holiday Inn Express.
We are confident that these two hotels can accommodate everyone using our charter. If you are part of a large group coming into Omaha, please reserve only as many rooms as you will use. If you find you don't need them, release rooms back to our block. For safety reasons, the hotel staff will need an occupant's name for every room and a credit card number for each occupant (one per room). Cardholder and occupant should be the same person.
Will weeklong parking be available near the Omaha airport? Yes, and there is no need to reserve it in advance. Expect to pay $5 a day for Budget Airport Parking, which serves both hotels. Valet service is available from the hotels. A shuttle will assist you in retrieving your car from Budget at week's end.
May I ship my bike and/or luggage to and from PBV, before and after the ride? Sure, but only through SendMyBike.com. We will be sending complete instructions about bike-shipping in a later update. For now, you can assume the following:
You must use sendmybike.com to ship baggage or bikes to PBV.
The price will be very close to FedEx retail shipping.
Your shipped items will be waiting for you at our first campsite.
You will have the free assistance of our mechanics to get your shipped bike ready for the road.
You will have the opportunity to package and ship your bike or bags home from the end of RAGBRAI, either by packing the bike up yourself or by turning the bike, case, and shipping label over to our mechanics, who will do the job in an air-conditioned bike shop and send it out by Tuesday after the ride ($40 charge if our mechanics do it).
You should NOT use any other RAGBRAI bike- or luggage-shipper, unless you want to walk a long distance from our camp to claim your shipped items.
Given the increased fees for your luggage on the plane, shipping luggage is becoming a reasonable alternative to dragging bags through an airport. Particularly your camping duffel with tent, sleeping bag, and Thermarest pad can be shipped to PBV prior to RAGBRAI and shipped from our campsite at ride's end. (Just bear in mind our two-bag limit during the week.)
Pork Belly Ventures is a dealer for Serfas Hard-shell Bike Cases. See pkbelly.com, and click on "Serfas Hard Case."
Who is Pork Belly Ventures LLC?
We are a brother/sister team, Pete Phillips and Tammy Pavich, partners in Pork Belly Ventures for twenty years. Our whole family lives here in our hometown, Council Bluffs, Iowa, right across the river from Omaha, Nebraska. Our charter is best known for our Weeklong Support, full of extras and relative luxuries, described in greater detail above. It's a privilege to show off the beauty of Iowa and the hospitality of its people.
The weeklong Pork Belly Crew will amaze you with their helpful, cheerful attitudes. Though their days are long and hard, they stay strong and chipper all week long. Many are schoolteachers, farmers, firefighters, and paramedics. The new generation is a muscular, energetic bunch of young guys (many of them sons of firefighters, paramedics, and farmers) who make the physical labor of PBV look almost easy. Our mom and dad, in their seventies now, help us in more ways than we can tell you.
And finally, a word about the folks who pass the corn with us. We seem to have a growing number of very fit men in their seventies who ride every year with us; however, most of our charter is thirties, forties, fifties, and sixties. You'll meet some youngsters, too. Every state in the union, several foreign countries, most professions, and many lifestyles, ethnicities, and cultures will be represented on our charter. Be sure to sit down under the canopies and strike up a conversation with a new acquaintance-you'll learn something. Every year, we're grateful for the first-timers who decide to give Iowa a try and for our RAGBRAI veterans who come back again to pass the corn.
Pork Belly Ventures operates in full compliance with the Iowa and U.S. Departments of Transportation.
What does it take to be a Porker? Well, you don't need to be a Spartan warrior to join us. The best description of our charter is "neighborhood block party," not "college frat party," so you're signing on for good, wholesome, healthy fun and quiet after 10:00 p.m. These four words are our bottom line: Live like a pig. Translation: when you're sweaty, hot, hungry, and tired (and you will be), you need to take it in stride. You'll soon be cleaned up, cooled down, sated, and rested, so in the meantime, treat the people who serve you, namely our friendly, hard-working crew, with courtesy. Courtesy. Courtesy. If you can shrug off a little temporary discomfort and keep your expectations reasonably low, you're a good match for Iowa and PBV. What if I have a problem or a special situation? Tell us what you need, and we'll try to help.
What do I NEED TO KNOW about my July vacation? We're going to send you about 30 email updates over the next six months to offer you special services, remind you of deadlines, give you a sense of our charter, and get you ready for this wacky challenge of a bike tour.
The most important document to read is your June Letter, published as an email update in early June. This is your one-stop for information on traveling with our charter. It will provide deadlines, schedules, and lots of other important stuff. You can delay reading other updates or skip them with little consequence. But you have to read your June Letter. Otherwise you could miss the bus!
What should I do right now? Go to pkbelly.com and hit Apply, where you can login to update an application or create a new one. Give us good contact information, your group name (if there are two or more of you), and your shirt size (for those on Weeklong Support), and check the services you need from us. When you hit Submit, you'll receive a confirmation/invoice by email. We will hold your reservation for ten days while you mail in a payment.
Do you have to be tough to do RAGBRAI? A little toughness helps, sure, but this is no race. You can't win RAGBRAI. Or rather, you win RAGBRAI by getting a big kick out of the whole deal. Whether you're smacking of sweat or duffel diving or maintaining inner fortitude in line for the kybo, don't miss the chance to chuckle at yourself. And if you need inspiration, head over to Pete's Shower Thingy and shriek like a girl.
We hope you'll join us in Iowa this July. Until then, we remain,
Tammy (Phillips) Pavich 712/328-0161 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Pete Phillips 712/328-6836 or email@example.com