The following article is a revised version of Dave Clabby’s letter to first time RAGBRAI© riders in 1997. It is still relevant to those who will be with CVC the first time since it explains some things about our charter package.
A normal day on RAGBRAI©…
There were about 180 passes issued by CVC last year. People camp in the CVC campground each night. I usually ride with about 5-6 other CVC riders. We wake up at about 5:30 a.m. (the sun is nearly up). Get dressed, hit the kybo (port-a-potty), break down the tent, pack the gear, and load it on the truck. We shoot to leave camp by 7:00 a.m. Earlier if we have a 100-mile day ahead of us. We usually ride out to at least the first town and have breakfast. The small towns have just an unbelievable amount of food. There is also the Pancake Man or Chris Cakes out at a farm somewhere. All the pancakes, sausage, juice, and coffee you can eat for about $6 or $7. The line can be about an hour wait sometimes, but you’ve got to eat. You can stop along the way and eat bagels, rolls, etc. Food and lines are usually plentiful. Ride at an easy pace with lunch by 11:00. We like to be in camp by 5:00 p.m. Mileage and having too much fun along the way can slow you down. You don’t have time to see and do everything. Follow CVC arrows and find camp in the next overnight town. Set up tent, shower, have a beer or pop, and look for a church for the best lasagna, spaghetti, etc. you can find. Don’t wait too long because they can run out of food later.
The overnight town will have all kinds of entertainment. Shuttle buses are available – sometimes free-will offering and sometimes there is a charge. The drivers will help you find where you need to go. Each overnight town will have small newspapers in the campground advertising what you need to know, plus maps, bus routes, etc. Also check with our charter workers or ask under the canopy for any needed information.
Showers are usually at schools, swimming pools or commercial vendors. Cost is $6 or $7. The quality of the showers varies greatly. The club has four portable showers set up. You then would need to buy a solar shower bag. These can be bought at camp supply stores, some big box stores, and through mail order catalogs like Campmor. They are not high pressure, but they are hot (if it is a sunny day) and you don’t have to wait in line with 500 other riders. They are really popular with the club members. Your bag will be laid out in the sun by our charter workers. Get in, find your bag, take a shower, and put your empty bag in the tank for the next day.
Trucks and CVC arrows… CVC route signs are bright yellow 9″ x 12″ with Cedar Valley Cyclists insignia. Watch for these as you come in to the overnight town. They will direct you when you leave the official RAGBRAI© route to CVC’s camp. They will be mounted on street signs. (So will 200 other club signs.) Keep alert for route signs. Watch for the Cedar Valley Cyclists club canopy. It is a 20′ x 30′ multi-colored canopy. It sticks out like a sore thumb. The 2 Budget Rental trucks will be marked with CVC arrows also. Your gear will be laid out on the ground each day by our charter workers. In case of rain, they will be covered with vinyl tarps. RAGBRAI© goes on in regardless of the weather. The trucks also have first aid kits on board if you need them. I pack my clothes in plastic baggies. Several t-shirts in one, socks and underwear in one, bike shorts in one, etc. This will keep them dry, but also will keep clean clothes fresh from wet or dirty clothes. Another technique is to pack everything for a complete change of clothes in a single plastic bag.
There are bike repair vendors on the route both in ride-through towns and in the overnight towns. They are very reasonable on prices. Also there is a full squad of ambulances. The route is patrolled by Iowa Highway Patrol and county deputies. I would recommend a pump, and extra tubes on your bike. Depending on the road surface and debris, flats do occur. You never know if you will need repair service of some kind, so be prepared with either extra cash or credit/debit card. To make sure that your bike is in top condition before the ride, have it serviced at your local bike shop in advance.
Morning, Bags, CVC Campground… There are good floor pumps on the trucks that you can use in the morning. Each AM, you will load your tent and gear on one of the trucks. The charter workers will unload it at the next overnight town. Several bags are better than one real heavy one. We have beer and pop in coolers each day when you get in camp. Payment is on the honor system. We suggest contributing $2 for beer and sport drinks and $1 for bottled water and pop. There is an old ammo box with a slot in the top. Just put in money and help your self to the coolers. If you put in $10 or $20, drink until you have consumed that much and then put in more money as the week goes along. .
The coolers and cash box are under the canopy. The club has about 50 plastic lawn chairs that we set up under our canopy. These are for anyone in camp to use. They stack in the trucks real nice. We ask that you not bring lawn chairs.
Temperatures… The high’s are in the 80’s and 90’s as a rule. Sun lotion, chapstick, etc. are needed. Lows are in the high 50’s and low 60’s. I recommend at least one pair of sweats or long pants and two long sleeve shirts, sweats or pullovers. Even though it may be in the 90’s one day, it could be pretty chilly at night. You will be up some nights until 10, 11, or so. You will be up around 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. A pair of bike tights for those cool mornings will feel really good. You will also need some rain gear, especially a rain jacket.
RAGBRAI© will list the official route, overnight towns and total miles for the week late in January. I highly recommend that you obtain the route to help you to plan your trip. Later on, they will list the actual towns we will ride through each day. RAGBRAI© will have daily maps available during the week of the ride. You can’t get lost on RAGBRAI©; just follow the trail of bikes to the next town. But it does help to know the mileage between towns. You can plan your day this way. You need to stay on the official route at all times. You are covered under RAGBRAI© insurance if you are hurt. This does not apply if you are off route. The route is patrolled by ambulances, deputies, and the Iowa Highway Patrol. Please stay on route!
If you were to miss the CVC arrows as you got into an overnight town, and you can’t find our campground, go to get to the main campground. Look for the RAGBRAI© information booth. They sell RAGBRAI© souvenirs, you will get your patch here, and they will direct you to the Camping Coordinator booth. They will have the location for Cedar Valley Cyclists’ campground. Also, CVC will issue you a small card with the location of every campground and there is a text messaging service with the camping locations. The main instruction is to stay on the official RAGBRAI© route until you see the CVC route sings. Watch carefully for CVC signs as you come in to the overnight town and you won’t have a problem finding us.
Dipping of your tires… You will hear about this. It is custom to dip your rear tire in the Missouri on the first day of RAGBRAI©. Although sometimes you may have to ride several miles back to the river if we don’t actually start in a river town. Most riders don’t bother to do this.
I highly recommend you dip in the last town. You will dip your front tire in the Mississippi River, of course. There will be a big celebration near the dock, red carpet, a long line, (the last one you’ll see for the week). Some riders will ride right off the dock. It is a blast and there are pictures galore. You will experience very mixed emotions here at the finish. You are glad the miles are over, you get to sleep on a real bed and take a real shower, but you will miss the people, the routine of riding across the state on your bike, and all the food. You might feel a big letdown as you realize it is over.
Lock your bike… Thefts don’t really happen during the day. You will mostly be in small towns. Bikes are everywhere and nearly none of them are locked. However, it is probably better to be safe than sorry later on. It is more common to lock bikes in the overnight towns. Under the cover of darkness, bikes are more vulnerable to theft. The best advice is to LOCK IT.
RAGBRAI© wristbands… You will get a RAGBRAI© wristband like a hospital band that you will wear all week. You will get one for your bike and a tag for your baggage, also. They will all have the same number on them. This number will be in RAGBRAI©’s computer. They can find out who you are if you injured, etc. by having this band system. Some food places will give a price discount to banded riders. This penalizes those riders who do not pay the RAGBRAI© fee. All CVC participants must be registered riders with wristbands!
You will need to load your bike on the trucks if you are doing Plan A. You may choose to box your bike for transport, but it is not required. Most people merely remove the pedals and throw a heavy blanket over the bike as it is loaded. Our charter workers pack the bikes closely together in the trucks so there is minimal movement and the blankets serve to protect them.
If you are doing Plan B, we will send you the location of our campground in the first town via email along with a lot of other information. Be sure to bring it along with you. In addition, there will be volunteers around town with the location of all the clubs and charter groups, so you can get directions from them. And lastly, just look for the CVC multi-colored tent.
Money… You will need cash or use traveler’s checks. Credit cards can be used at the bike shops for t-shirts, repairs, and bike accessories. Credit cards can’t be used at the small food shops sponsored by Girl Scouts or local churches, etc. You may spend $40-45 per day. This would mean around $325-350 for the week. You will be buying three good meals plus you will be drinking a lot of pop, beer, bottled water, sport drinks, etc. A lot of snacks, sweet corn, munchies, etc. are out there. You might buy one or two t-shirts. The price for these will be around $17-20 each. ATMs are available, but there is frequently a line and they have been known to run out of money in the evening. You wouldn’t want to depend solely on them.
Good luck – see you in July,
Dave Clabby, RAGBRAI© Director 1996-97, Rainbow Cyclists