2018 RAGBRAI Invitation Letter


January 27, 2018

Dear Porkers,

Our friend Frank wrote in December to say that he couldn’t join us this time. He didn’t elaborate, but said he was experiencing “full-blown FOMO.” FOMO? Was it painful? Was it serious? I went straight to WebMD for an explanation.


You’re probably way ahead of me here, but it turns out that Frank is fine, and FOMO is Textese for a Fear Of Missing Out. You see, Frank will be on a luxury cruise in July. The cruise date is locked in, and interestingly, he’s sort of weighing how much fun he’ll have---sailing on some blue ocean, being pampered by the ship’s crew, enjoying the wonderful food and entertainment---compared to joining his good friends in their annual tradition of riding across Iowa. We think that says a lot for Iowa.


After finding FOMO, I read up on this ALL-CAPS lingo--"Textese." You know some of it... LOL. BFF. SLAP (Sounds Like A Plan.) This quick-speak is starting to make its own kind of sense, and we've started abbreviating now. All of ours include the letter P.

Last year at this time, we wondered if Janet would be able to join us. She was going through chemo, as she tells the story. “Once when I was at my lowest,” she said, “79 lbs, my doctor asked me why I was smiling. ‘Because in a few months, I will be on RAGBRAI,’ Janet said. Throughout that time, she wrote to us about envisioning herself joining us and our crew and her good friends. She just knew she would ride. For some reason, Janet didn’t have FOMO. She had something else—I’m calling it POPA. The Power of Pork Anticipation. It got her through.


RIGHT: That's Janet, recovered from her medical ordeal, and rolling with it last July.


It’s the time of year when Pork Anticipation infects us all, and this letter will go into great detail about what you can anticipate during your Iowa cruise. It's a hard thing to put in a nutshell--the experience of RAGBRAI--but each day will be a string of moments and sensations—bed-heads lined up at the coffee trailer before it’s even light outside. Mist on a cornfield. The good ache in your quads on the downhill side. Brick streets on the town square--line dancing in cleats. A thick chop grilled over a cob fire. A fellow rider who talks you right over the hills. Homemade pie in someone’s front yard. On the horizon, a water tower---almost there. The miracle of a hot shower on an air-conditioned semi-trailer. A tingle of sunburn. The thump of drums and the first few chords as the band warms up on stage. Supper outdoors and fireflies at dusk. Under the dome of your tent, slipping under the RAGBRAI ether.


You'll leave us each morning and cover your miles, and at the end of your road, Pork Belly Ventures will have more moments for you, in the way of comforts, relative RAGBRAI luxuries, and some entertaining distractions described below. And in a few short months, we'll all be LTPD. Living the Pork Dream.


One thing we can't offer you this year, darn it, is Frank. He is a friend to just about everyone in Pork Camp and he’ll be sorely missed. Frank, we’re giving you a one-year pass. Bon Voyage [but WYWH!].

ABOVE: We thank Gaines, Frank's good friend, for sharing favorite Frank photos from which we chose a few. You may notice a few more below.

Navigating this Letter

This invitation letter is a rather long Pork Reference Document, and it's organized with the more urgent stuff up front: 


1) The Latest Info: Dates, Route, and PBV Prices 

2) How to Register with PBV and with RAGBRAI 

3) Air Transportation, Hotels, Parking, and Bike Shipping 

4) Other Important Questions  


Find a place to keep this letter. Today you might scroll and see what's here. Later, you can find the details when you need them. If you're ready to sign up for our services today, our online application has been activated for the season. We hope you can join us.


Keep reading, and stay tuned for more in about a week: shuttle details and departure times. Until then, Porkers, we remain,


Your Friends,

Tammy (Phillips) Pavich

Pete Phillips


T: 712-328-0161 h 808-375-8921 c

P: 712-328-6836 h 402-681-2613 c





What are the ride dates? The ride begins before dawn on Sunday, July 22nd, and ends on Saturday, July 28th. That means that we'll meet up with most of you on Saturday, the 21st, either at the Omaha or Des Moines 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, July 20th, 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 20th. We have included details on these options in the FAQs below.  


What's this year's route? RAGBRAI officials …. While last year was way up north and relatively flat, this year we cross at the waistline of Iowa. Here are the overnight towns and the daily mileage: Onawa to Denison (43.3 miles on Sunday), to Jefferson (71.7 miles on Monday), to Ames (58.9 miles on Tuesday), to Newton (59.1 miles on Wednesday), to Sigourney (68.6 miles on Thursday), to Iowa City (57.6 miles on Friday). The ride ends in Davenport, with 69 miles to ride on the final Saturday.


Total mileage is 428, and it's the fourth flattest and seventh shortest in RAGBRAI history.  You can find out more about the route here: 2018 Overnight Towns


We'll publish more about our overnight host towns in future updates.  It's a great route!

What recent improvements has PBV made? Over the years, we've come up with a lot of new ways to make you happy. Here's a loose list of the more recent additions or improvements to our services, and our goals for the 2018 version of PBV:


E-Bike Charging Thanks to Pam, we piloted e-bike charging last year, and we have a plan for serving more e-bike riders this year. If you are a rider who has suffered an injury, are new to the sport of distance cycling, or who has many multi-day cycling events under your belt but need intermittent e-assistance nowadays—then you might be one of the millions of pedalers who purchased an e-bike last year. For those on our Weeklong Support, PBV can provide charging for e-bikes, but we need to know if you’re bringing one to Iowa. Write to us, please. If you’re not on our list, we can’t promise to help you charge up. 


"Half Hog" Options, or Doing Half of RAGBRAI  If you want to ride the first half or last half, we prorate our weeklong support, and most importantly, we offer convenient shuttles on Tuesday afternoon. You can exit after riding the first half of the week or enter RAGBRAI midweek and ride the last four days. The Tuesday exit/enter point works well for folks who drive or fly. Once the route has been out for a week or ten days, we'll offer a fuller explanation of all shuttles, including our Half Hog options. Also see our list of services and prices below.

Kybos in Camp  Although the toilet standard on RAGBRAI has been about 1:100, PBV goes well beyond by contracting for porta-toilets in our campsites each day and providing our custom-built restroom trailer with twelve flushing fixtures, lighting, ventilation, and sinks. 


Hand Sanitizing Stations Last year, the guys built several new PBV-owned handwashing stations with hand sanitizer, to be placed near the kybos and refilled by our crew throughout the day. We also offer hand-washing at the restroom trailer.


Two Phone-Charging Trailers When you step on board a charging trailer, it feels like a little post office, with walls of charging compartments. Most of our locking compartments can charge two smaller devices, while our latest trailer can accommodate laptops and tablets in larger compartments. The trailers are locked overnight, but they continue to charge. Bring your own little padlock, please.

Live Music Last year we booked eight bands in seven days, and we’re already booking entertainment for July. About 6:00, you’ll sit down with your dinner plate and enjoy the show. Expect a mix of our old favorite musicians and others new to the Pork Stage. 

Massage Appointments We’ll continue to have 10 therapists working all afternoon and evening, with a staffed appointment desk during peak hours at the massage recovery tent. Come late June, we’ll welcome you to book massage appointments in advance.


Payment by Credit Card It’s our third year accepting credit card payments at the site. While many of you appreciated the convenience, others preferred to pay by check as usual. You'll find a full explanation below, but Porkers have the choice of paying your complete balance by credit card or paying a 10% deposit by credit card and following up with a check in the mail.

Shipped Bike Pre-Assembly  We'll continue to offer the popular option of having your shipped bike assembled before you arrive.


The Shower Standard  We offer 56 private dressing rooms, 56 shower stalls in camp, endless hot water, a clean towel, liquid soap dispensers, more than one shower per day if you want it: on RAGBRAI, it just doesn't get any better than that.

Hotel Stays Once the route is announced, there's a race for rooms—and we are in it to win. Usually we can secure large blocks of rooms on a few nights and small blocks of rooms on the others. Our motorcoach will transfer Porkers to/from camp. These options will be published to all Porkers in June. 


Indoor Camping Last year, we arranged indoor camping in two churches, a school, and a lodge. For a small donation to our hosts, Porkers were invited to reserve air-conditioned sleeping space ahead of time. Every year, it's a new ballgame, but we'll try our best for a roof over your heads on two or more nights.


We're always thinking about Pork Perks and Pork Pleasures to offer you, so watch our updates. Please scroll for the full description of our 2018 support. 

What are Pork Belly's SERVICES AND PRICES?   


In summary, our Weeklong Support and Tent Service went up a little, while some of our shuttles came down a little. Here are our services, mainly in chronological order. Scroll for our round-trip Des Moines Shuttle at the end. 


Bus from Omaha Airport to the Start Town

On Saturday, the 21st, we'll meet you at Omaha's Eppley Airport and transport you, your baggage, and your bike to our campsite in the RAGBRAI start town. (Last bus will depart by 4:00 p.m.) 

 $40 per person


East/West Shuttle

If you want to park your car in the end town before the ride, we'll meet you there either on Friday afternoon (the 20th) or early on Saturday (the 21st) and transport you, your baggage, and your bike to the start town.

$156 per person 

Weeklong Support for Rider

While you bicycle each day, we will transport your baggage across Iowa for the week, from west to east, providing great campsites, meals, entertainment, your daily shower and towel fee, and many amenities and support services, described more fully below.

 $425 per person for the full week. 

We can prorate this price for partial-week clients at $65 per person per day.


Weeklong Support for Non-riders is available for $560 per person, and please contact us for a visit about your week.


Partial Week with Pork Belly Ventures is $65 per person per day. Consecutive days only.

Child Price for Weeklong Support is $200 for kids under 13 years of age, and they must be accompanied by an adult, of course. 


Return Bus to Omaha On Saturday, the 28th, 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.  

 $150 per person  


Shuttle to Airport Near End-Town On Saturday, the 28th, we'll transport you and your baggage (let us know if you'll have a bike) from the end town of Davenport to the largest Iowa airport in the east, the Quad Cities International Airport (MLI)--just across the river, really. We will soon publish two afternoon departure times. Please stand by as we complete our planning, and watch for our next update on shuttle details and departure times.

$25 per person


Optional Tent Rental and Daily Set-up  See fuller description and details below. Available only to those on our Weeklong Support. We do not prorate this service for a partial week.

$490 per tent - price is the same for one or two tent occupants.  

Add $100 for a third tent occupant (We don't recommend this tent for three people unless one or more people are children.)


Round-trip Des Moines Bus Transportation

Shuttle service from Des Moines to the start town is $124 per person.


The return from the end town to Des Moines is $136. 


The round trip Des Moines bus service is $260. We'll depart from and return to the AmericInn Airport Hotel at the Des Moines airport.

Half-Hog Shuttle exit on Tuesday afternoon, from our campsite in Ames to a Des Moines airport hotel. This is for those who ride the first three days, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. We'll publish complete details in our next update.

$41 per person


Half-Hog Shuttle enter on Tuesday afternoon, from a Des Moines airport hotel to our campsite in Ames. This shuttle is for those who enter the ride late and cycle Wednesday through Saturday. We'll publish complete details in our next update.

$42 per person


With this RAGBRAI starting and ending in the middle of our state, the distances of shuttles is shorter this year, and consequently shuttle prices are lower than last year. 


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 is available only to those on our Weeklong Support). 


For all shuttles, we use comfortable, quality motor coaches, restroom-equipped and air-conditioned.

What all is included in PBV's Weeklong Support in 2018? 

When you ride RAGBRAI with Pork Belly Ventures, you come home each day to an organized and well-appointed campsite with nearly everything you need. A few services like massage and laundry are optional, reasonably priced, and extremely convenient to have available right in your campsite. Here's what you can expect with Pork Belly's Weeklong Support:




Excellent, well-appointed, spacious RESERVED campsites


Transport of two bags per person from host town to host town (RAGBRAI's baggage transport allows one bag per person)

ABOVE: Here are some of the heavy lifters of PBV--they rock!


Your Daily Shower and Towel Three air-conditioned shower trailers in camp with a total of 56 stalls, private dressing areas for every stall, endless hot water, liquid soap dispensers, a fresh towel with every shower, and more than one shower a day if you like. Your PBV wristband admits you to the shower.


A Bank of Kybos (porta-toilets) contracted by PBV, and PBV Hand-sanitizing stations. We contract for our own kybos to have more control over their placement in our campsites.


Our Royal Flush, the restroom trailer is much more pleasant than kybos, and well-lit at night. It offers flushing toilets and urinals, sinks and soap-dispensers, mirrors, ventilation fans, and lighting. 

Three of Your Evening Meals in Camp Included Hearty menus provided by local caterers in each host town, menus arranged by PBV. After our May scouting trips, we'll give you this year's menus. (On the other three nights, you can purchase dinner in Pork Camp if you like. In future updates, we'll explain how to sign up in advance for optional suppers.)

Evening Entertainment From Saturday night to Friday night, we'll have talented musicians on stage. Music through dinner till the fireflies come out.


The Social Zone with Misting Fans Our shady circus tents with chairs provide a place to sit down and join a conversation. You'll also find a misting system to refresh you.  


A New Team Shirt, design to be announced. Be sure to include your shirt size when you apply online for our Weeklong Support. 


Phone-Charging Trailers with locking compartments for charging electronic devices. Both trailers will be locked overnight, but charging continues until the trailers are unlocked in the morning about 5:00. 

Our friendly Front Desk Crew, ready to direct you to showers, kybos, and local amenities 


Ice-cold beverages at the Front Desk, about 90 cents each, plus free lemonade in the afternoon and through dinner. 


PBV Locations Card You'll get your laminated card at check-in, with our campsite locations in each overnight town.  

Hot Morning Coffee Kim and Dave start brewing at 4:30 a.m., three gallons every eight minutes. Hot tea, too.


Licensed Massage Therapists Ten or more therapists this year, strong and nurturing, working in our massage recovery tent (additional charge). Book 15, 30, or 60 minutes (or longer) of restorative massage. They'll get your muscles ready for tomorrow's ride.

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 of $20) We'll take your stuff from wet and smelly to dry, fresh, and folded. Take the stink out of your duffel---for at least little while. 


Pete's Shower Thingy We have shower trailers now, but Porkers still rely on this RAGBRAI classic for brushing their teeth or filling water bottles. It's a table, plumbed with five spigots and equipped with a mirror on both sides. Use it to cool off. 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 (for those who bring a case on the plane or ship the bike to Iowa, free to weeklong Porkers. 


Luxury SAG Service A day off the bike, and a ride from overnight town to overnight town. Details below, additional charge of $25 per use.


Upwards of ninety friendly, able-bodied, can-do crew members (not including bike mechanics or massage therapists) to help, comfort, and revive you.  


Other Needs: 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. They have band aids, a hammer for your stakes, a ziplock bag, whatever you need. 

Before RAGBRAI:  


Around 20 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

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. Throughout the season, our updates are published on the App. It's FREE--get it now at your App Store. 

Bike-shipping to and from Iowa (additional charge), using sendmybike.com. (We plan to open in mid-February; please watch updates from PBV.)


Upon arrival, mechanical assistance with uncrating your bike and getting it road ready


Packaging of your bike to ship home--just hand it over (additional charge)  


A special FedEx receiving area right in our camp at the end town for shipped bikes


A photo-heavy recap of RAGBRAI with all the week's highlights  


A slideshow of our week together--useful in recruiting friends to join you next year!


*Each town's host committee has the final say on shower venders. Most towns appreciate us bringing our shower trailers, and this has never happened, BUT it's possible that a town may prefer that we use their showers instead of ours. 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.

Can I ride RAGBRAI without the support of a charter? Yes, but why do that when there's a charter for just about every budget? It only makes sense to have a home base within the throng of RAGBRAI. If our prices don't suit your budget, by all means call us so we can recommend another charter.


A basic service to carry your baggage and provide a campsite is in the neighborhood of $200, but it will not include amenities in camp like those we provide. After you find your campsite each day, be prepared to wander the overnight town in search of your shower, snacks and meals, bike mechanics, beverages, phone-charging, and so on. After a 70-mile ride, this can be disheartening.


The Weeklong Support of PBV 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 you spend for our Weeklong Support could be the best money you spend all week.


Our riders like to focus on riding their miles and enjoying their Week in the Corn. They depend on us for the lively little Pork village that they can call home. They may explore the overnight towns, but if they happen to be tuckered out at the end of a long hot road, they can find their shower, snacks and meals, cold drinks, an electrical outlet, a shady social area, friendly bike mechanics, restorative massage therapy, and some happy live music right in camp. 


Some of our riders are dealing with a medical issue and appreciate an extra level of support. 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.   

What's included in Pork Belly Ventures' Tent Rental and Daily Set-up? Our quality rental tents are 63 square feet (8.5' X 7.5'). With duffels inside, we consider our tent a roomy two-man. You can share, or 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 catch your breath under canopies or head off to the shower immediately. PBV has made a significant investment in our rental tents these last two years, replacing virtually all of our tents and poles.


We'll set up Tent City on the same grid every day. Address cards will help you locate yours. We're 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 in the season.


We have limitations: We'll aim for set-up by 1:00 p.m. each day, but host town traffic or inclement weather might put our crew 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 one occupant is a child, and there's an extra charge of $100 for handling the third person's baggage. 

Suppose I want to bring my own tent? More than half 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. Those who bring their own tents do their own set-up and take-down, bringing their bags to the baggage truck each morning. If you bring your own tent, you'll have more choices of where to camp (versus your fixed spot on our large grid of rental tents).


Should I book PBV Support and/or Tent before booking my shuttles? Do I have to book shuttles now? If you haven’t firmed up your travel plans, it’s a good idea to wait on choosing your shuttles. Many people go ahead and include our support and/or tent service on the application, but wait until May to add their shuttles.

What's the daily Pork Shower like? It's hot--we never run out of hot water. It's cool--the trailers are air-conditioned. It's private--your dressing area is adjacent to your shower stall. It's convenient--located right in camp, and your towel is included. Each stall has a soap dispenser. It's accessible--we have 56 stalls on three trailers, so even at peak times the waits are relatively short in the context of RAGBRAI. One of our trailers will stay open until about 8:30 pm. It's included--with your PBV wristband, you can take more than one shower a day if you like.


Please Note: On an event like RAGBRAI, waiting in line is normal. At peak times of the day, usually late afternoon, lines may form for our showers, even though we have 56 stalls in camp (up from 36 stalls in 2014). Remember, please, that many RAGBRAIers will walk or take a shuttle to a shower facility and wait in line for cold water and no privacy. You, on the other hand, will be surrounded by amenities in Pork Camp, and any waiting will result in your hot and private shower on an air-conditioned trailer right in our campsite.   


What if I want to SAG, take a day off the bike? We offer a very comfortable and secure way for you and your bike to get to the next overnight town for $25 per day. We hire a 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 on a specially outfitted trailer. 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. The bus has AC and a restroom, the seats are soft, and you can snooze all the way to the next host town. 


(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 $560 for the week including our Weeklong Support and your daily town-to-town transfer.)


Suppose I can only ride half the week? PBV has always prorated our Weeklong Support. Our day rate is $65 per person per day.


We'll publish more about the Half Hog Shuttles in our next update.


What's the advantage of booking a round trip into and out of Omaha? Omaha is our most popular airport shuttle, convenient for those who drive in from the west or the south and for those who fly to Iowa. 


With our round-trip Omaha service, we pretty much take care of you from the time you reach baggage claim in Omaha to the time you step off our bus at your Omaha airport hotel on the evening of the 28th. 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 at our side-by-side airport hotels. On Sunday, the free hotel shuttle will take you to the airport.


Omaha airport parking is convenient, secure, and inexpensive. You'll find information below under "Airline Reservations, Hotels, Parking, and Bike Shipping."

Will Pork Belly offer a shuttle from the end town to the nearest airport? Yes, and the nearest airport this year is the Quad Cities International Airport (MLI). In fact, it's just across the river. Soon we will publish details and departure times for all shuttles. With only 70 miles to ride on the last day of RAGBRAI, we plan to offer two afternoon departure times from Davenport across the river to the Quad Cities Airport in Moline, IL. This shuttle takes about 30 minutes, barring traffic slowdowns.


At the end of RAGBRAI, what are my transportation options with PBV?  We can take you to the Des Moines Airport AmericInn Hotel, or we can take you to our side-by-side hotels at the Omaha airport. Or we can take you to the Quad Cities airport as explained above. We will publish all shuttle details and departure times in our next update.


What are the shuttle departure times? At this writing, we have only known the route for a few hours, but we'll publish an update soon with estimated departure times on all shuttles. On the 21st, our last shuttle from Omaha airport is likely to be at 4:00 p.m. It's wise not to make airline reservations until we have published shuttle departure times. On the last day of RAGBRAI, it's likely that most shuttle departures will be between the hours of 1:00 and 3:00. More to come!

What is the advantage of using the PBV East/West Shuttle?For those who live east of Iowa within driving distance of the end town, this shuttle is ideal. You drive to the end town on Friday the 20th (or earlier) and park your car in the designated long-term parking (the end-town host committee will charge a parking fee; see their website after May 1). You may also drive into the end town very early on Saturday--but plan for traffic congestion. Our crew will meet you there for bike loading on Friday around noon and/or early on Saturday, the 21st. By mid to late afternoon on Saturday, we'll have you and your bike in the start town. You bike for seven days, back to your car.


Will PBV Run the East/West Shuttle on Friday as well as on Saturday Morning?  Yes. This option grows more popular every year. You'll have a chance to think about it and talk to your friends. Later on in the season, we'll ask you for your preferred departure day, Friday afternoon (two departure options) or Saturday morning (three departure options).

What if I don't know which shuttle would be best for me?  We don't expect you to know Iowa geography. Just write or call, and we'll talk through your options. Contact us, please, before you make airline reservations. We could tell you stories about folks who booked a non-refundable ticket to an Iowa airport that was way off the route of RAGBRAI and others who chose to park a car in a spot that caused them extra driving. Let's talk. 


What if I don't even bike but want to experience RAGBRAI? No problem. A handful of people participate as non-riders with our charter every year. Often they have a son, daughter, or spouse who is cycling with our charter. We'll carry you on our 56-passenger motorcoach from overnight town to overnight town. You can wander our host town, get a nice massage, or hang out and talk to other non-riders until your friend or family member comes in from the road.


To arrange to join PBV as a non-rider, please contact us. I, Tammy, will visit with you about your week and what to expect. 


May we bring our car or RV with PBV?

This one is important, friends. We are adding this topic to our invitation letter to avoid any misunderstandings.


Neither non-riders nor riders traveling with charters may bring their own vehicles, whether or not they have secured the RAGBRAI vehicle pass. This is a strict RAGBRAI rule, which we have promised to obey: charters may not support anyone who has a personal vehicle on RAGBRAI. If you're with a charter, you must leave the vehicle passes for self-supporting smaller families and groups.

How Can I Get the Pork Belly Smartphone App? We continue to have record numbers of downloads on the free Pork Belly App.  If you haven't done it yet, search 'Pork Belly Ventures' to find it at the Apple App Store or the Android Google Play Store. Our 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.


On RAGBRAI, cell towers get overwhelmed when more than ten thousand data-hungry riders pedal into an area where the population is a fraction of that. Katy Fletcher, our app developer, has set up the app to download both the PBV Host Town Maps and RAGBRAI Route Maps directly to your phone prior to the ride. This has made it possible to enjoy the intended benefits of the app throughout your favorite week of the year.



For a couple years now, Pork Belly Ventures has accepted credit cards at the site. Here are our explanation of options for signing up with PBV.


How to Sign Up for the First Time with PBV

To create a new application, please hit "Apply" in the center of your screen and follow the prompts, entering a username and password, creating your profile, selecting services, and clicking "Submit" at the end.


How to Access My Former Application

To login in with your username and password, use the LOGIN tab in the upper right corner of our homepage at www.pkbelly.com. You'll find password recovery there also.


Also, on any confirmation email from pkbelly.com, you'll find a link directly to your application. If you saved confirmations from last year, or if you save your confirmation email this year, you will always have that link to your application page.


Deposit of Ten Percent on the Credit Card

Everyone who signs up for services pays at least ten percent of the balance by credit card. There’s no convenience fee for the ten percent deposit that holds your reservation for services (you don’t pay 3% for this convenience). You may still choose to mail a check for your remaining balance; see the explanation below. Your remaining balance will not be due until May 15th. 


PBV Cancellation Policy

Please note that if you select our Cancellation Protection, 15% is charged to your credit card when you initially apply. That includes the 10% deposit and 5% for the cancellation protection. Both the deposit and the protection are non-refundable. This has always been the case, but we state it explicitly so there's no misunderstanding. Our Cancellation Policy and Cancellation Protection are explained more fully below.

Two Methods of Paying Your Remaining Balance

Some folks prefer to use the card to pay their final balance, incurring a 3% convenience fee, and others prefer to mail a check, avoiding the convenience fee. Here are explanations of your options:


1) Pay in Full, One Transaction, on Your Card

At the initial time of application, you may pay the whole thing by credit card in a single transaction. For this convenience, a 3% processing fee will be assessed.


2) Mail a Check for Remaining Balance

For folks like us who would want to save that 3% service charge, feel free to use the option of mailing a check for your 90% balance. No hurry. Just send it by May 15th.


In any case, we absorb the 3% fee on your first ten percent of services reserved. In other words, there's no fee for putting your 10% deposit on the card.


PBV Cancellation Policy

Before June 15th, you can still cancel part or all of your PBV services and receive a 90% refund on the amount of services reserved. You can drop services or cancel entirely by phone or email (we prefer email, which is time-stamped), and we'll process your refund quickly. We'll also try to find you a buyer for your official RAGBRAI wristband. On or after June 15th, we make no refunds. More on Cancellation below. 


Cancellation Protection

Pork Belly Ventures offers Cancellation Protection for an additional five percent (5%). Cancellation Protection extends your refund deadline from June 15th to Wednesday, July 18th at 10:00 p.m. July 18th is the Wednesday before RAGBRAI. The additional 5% for protection is due at the time of registration. Our Cancellation Protection is explained more fully at pkbelly.com. More on Cancellation Protection below. 


Non-Refundable Fees

The first ten percent (10%) must be paid by credit card, and is non-refundable as stated in our cancellation policy.


The five-percent (5%) charge for our optional cancellation protection extends the 90% refund deadline from June 15 to July 18th. It is non-refundable. 


Firm Reservations

Everyone who completes an application and pays his/her ten percent by credit card will have a firm reservation with PBV. Completing an application without paying the deposit doesn't give you a reservation, even though the information is retained on your application.


When you submit the registration online, you will receive an auto-generated email confirmation, showing your payment and any remaining balance.

The Number of Riders on One PBV Application

In the past, a group leader might sign up several group members on one application, and each group member was able to mail in payment for his/her part of the fees. But given the fact that we now require the 10% deposit on a card, such a group leader would be on the hook for ten percent of all services on the application. Around May 15th, he/she would be faced with a large balance due for everybody on the application. If a group leader is willing to pay for everyone and settle up later, it's fine with us. But chances are that most group leaders will prefer that members take care of their own payments.


Therefore, we recommend that group members complete their own applications and pay their own fees. Please see "Common Group Name" below. 


Family members, for whom one person is paying the expenses of all, may continue to put everyone on the same application. 

ABOVE: One year Bill from Canada shared hats and scarves with his Texas friends, in hopes of cool RAGBRAI weather.


Common Group Name for Two or More People

There is a group-name field on the PBV application. If two or more friends are joining Pork Belly, you should put a common group name on your application forms, like "Jones Group" or "Lucy's Friends" or "Dingbats" or "Misfits." Now is the time to choose your group name and communicate it to all members. If you want to be assigned to the same bus or be rental-tent neighbors, the group name allows us to meet your needs. We can serve you better when we know who is with whom.


No Group Name for Individuals 

Individuals coming to PBV by themselves should leave the group-name field blank. Again, please leave it blank. Don't even type "just me" or "none." When we do bus rosters, it makes it far easier to find you if there's no group name.


MORE on Cancellation

Please read this section and the next section on Cancellation Protection carefully and contact us to make sure you understand before you register.


Before Thursday, June 15th, you can still cancel part or all of your PBV services and receive a 90% refund for the services you have reserved. 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 several email updates prior to the deadline of June 15th: on or after the 15th of June, we will make no refund.


The Whole Scoop on 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.


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 publish our cancellation policy several 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 your 90% refund from June 15th all the way through until Wednesday, July 18th, you can select "Cancellation Protection" on the online application form. The non-refundable fee for this protection is five percent of the value of services you have reserved with PBV. (One exception: cancellation protection does not apply to the PHAT Trailer Accommodations.)


This protection applies only to the period from June 15 to July 18 at 10:00 p.m. For anyone who cancels later than 10:00 p.m. on July 18th, we make no refund. 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 Wednesday, July 18. 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. But by spending 5% up front on a non-refundable fee, you can receive a 90% refund if you cancel for any reason all the way through July 18 at 10:00 p.m. You may purchase this protection at the original time of registration ONLY.

Signing Up for RAGBRAI

Although some bike clubs can register their riders for RAGBRAI, charters may not do so. Therefore, every Porker will go to ragbrai.com and sign up between mid-November and the deadline of April 1.

Registering at RAGBRAI.com should be done at a desktop or laptop computer. You may encounter problems if you attempt to sign up with your phone or tablet.


By May 1, RAGBRAI will send out confirmations to registered RAGBRAI riders of 2018.



We hear this question so often that we want to address it for you here. Many newbies ask us if they should delay registering with PBV until they learn around May 1 whether they have been drawn in the RAGBRAI "lottery."


Delay registering if you want to, but the lottery is not a reason to do so. In recent years---actually, for a long time now---virtually everyone who completed their RAGBRAI application properly and on time has gotten into the ride. We don't know all the ins and outs, but when we and other charters have asked RAGBRAI officials about this, they've told us, "Tell your folks not to worry."


Buying a Wristband on the After-Market

If you realize after April 1 that you can come to Iowa after all, please contact us and we'll introduce you to a wristband seller. You can follow the Register's simple procedure for transferring wristbands via their online transfer form. Once you do that transfer, you'll be legit, as though you had signed up in January.


In the very unlikely event that you are not selected in the lottery (if you made a mistake on the application or missed the deadline), contact us for the same kind of help in finding a RAGBRAI wristband. In twenty-three years, we have never failed to find a wristband for a patient buyer.


Valid Considerations on When to Sign Up with PBV

If you are concerned about getting one of our rental tents, they tend to sell out in May (we usually have a waiting list). For a few years, our Weeklong Support has sold out in May or early June. We never know from year to year if or when services will sell out, but you might be wise not to wait too long.




When should I make my airline reservations? Please give us a little time after the route announcement to publish our airport shuttle departure times. On the night of the route announcement, we hurry to publish this invitation. Then, we take the following week to think through the implications of the new route, locations of airports in relation to the overnight towns, cycling distances, and so on. Very soon, we'll publish Pork Belly Update #1 with shuttle details and departure times before and after RAGBRAI. Once you know our shuttle departure times, you can make your airline reservations with confidence.


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.


If I'm driving to the end town on Friday, what are my overnight options? Pork Belly Ventures always attempts to find inexpensive indoor camping in the end town. We have reserved gymnasiums, school facilities, YMCAs, and other large rooms, where folks could make a small donation to roll out their sleeping bags at a location relatively close to long-term parking. Last year in Lansing, it was the social hall downtown. We have sold out an entire dormitory on a college campus in the past. Again this year, we will make every effort to arrange such accommodations.


Also, camping is always available on Friday night in the end town.


Will weeklong parking be available at the end town? Yes, and our bike-loading and bus-boarding area for the east/west shuttle is typically located very near the long-term parking area. Hold tight and watch our updates or 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 21st through the 27th, you will be camping with PBV, but if you're flying into Omaha on Friday, the 20th, and/or returning with us to Omaha late on Saturday evening, the 28th, you will need Omaha hotel reservations. We have room blocks for both nights at two side-by-side airport hotels.


What are PBV's designated Omaha airport hotels? Our two side-by-side hotels at the Omaha airport are the Best Western Plus and the Candlewood Suites. These hotels are owned by the same company and run by an excellent team of managers. They are very nice.




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 Best Western Plus, and Candlewood guests will walk across the parking lot 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:

Best Western Plus (formerly Holiday Inn Express), 402-505-4900:  

  • Mention our name to reserve your king or double queen room for $130.
  • 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 (about $5 per day)
  • Free airport shuttle and Old Market shuttle. (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 $130.
  • North side of Candlewood is the site of our bus loading and unloading (Best Western Plus guests walk over and back.)
  • The site of free laundry (Best Western Plus 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 (about $5 per day)
  • Free airport shuttle and Old Market shuttle. (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.


Because Best Western Plus 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 $130 per night.


All Pork Belly buses will depart from and return to the Omaha airport Candlewood Suites, next door to the Best Western Plus (formerly Holiday Inn Express). 


At times, we have run short on rooms, even with blocks at both hotels. Word to the wise, reserve early. 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. We're working on a new and better parking option for you... more to come. Valet service is available from the hotels. A shuttle will assist you in retrieving your car 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.


The Sendmybike.com web site will be ready for use sometime in February. Please watch updates. More info below.


ANY RAGBRAI RIDER, not just those using the support services of Pork Belly Ventures, MAY USE SENDMYBIKE.COM FOR BIKE SHIPPING. If you're not with Pork Belly during the week, please check the website for your instructions. 


THOSE WITH PBV should not sign up for any other bike- or luggage-shipper, unless you want to walk a long distance from our camp to claim your shipped items. We will be sending complete instructions about bike-shipping in a later update. 


Those with Pork Belly Ventures can assume the following:

  • You must use sendmybike.com to ship baggage or bikes to PBV.
  • The price will be reasonably close to FedEx retail shipping.
  • Your shipped items will be waiting for you at our first campsite.
  • If you're on our Weeklong Support, you will have the free assistance of our mechanics to get your shipped bike ready for the road.
  • There will be an option to have your shipped bike assembled for you before you arrive.
  • 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.


Stand by, please, for details in our bike-shipping update.



Who is Pork Belly Ventures LLC? This is the 25th year of our partnership between brother and sister, Pete Phillips and Tammy Pavich. We and our extended family live here in our hometown, Council Bluffs, Iowa, across the Missouri River from Omaha, Nebraska. Our charter is best known for our Weeklong Support, full of extras and relative luxuries, described in greater detail above. We take pride in Iowa's hospitality and the kindness of people you'll meet all across our home state.


ABOVE: That's our friend and crew member Laura, between Pete (left) and Tammy (right). BELOW, I, Tammy, rode my first RAGBRAI in 1984.

The Pork Belly crew will surprise and delight 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 youngsters (many of them sons and daughters of schoolteachers, farmers, firefighters, and paramedics) who make the physical labor of PBV look almost easy. Our mom and dad have always helped 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 and women 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?

In short, can you roll with it? When you're sweaty, hot, hungry, and tired (and you will be), can you 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. We will do our level best to help you have a great time. If you can shrug off a little temporary discomfort and keep your expectations reasonably low, you're a good match for Iowa and PBV.


The best description of our charter is "neighborhood block party," not "college frat party," so with us, you're signing on for good, wholesome, healthy fun and quiet after 10:00 p.m.  If you want a hard party or a late party, we're not a good fit for you.

What if I have a problem or a special situation? Tell us what you need, and we'll try to help.


Will PBV communicate with me about my July vacation? 

Over the course of the season, we send you about 20 email updates. Your next updates will have some fun stuff, along with the details and departure times of all PBV Shuttles.


Until June, we'll send a couple of updates a month. In those last 60 days, we'll write to you more frequently. Our updates will offer you extras and add-on services, remind you of deadlines, give you a sense of our charter, and get you ready for this thing.


The most important document to read is your June Letter, published as an email update in early June. It will provide deadlines, schedules, directions, and lots of other important stuff. You can skip other updates with little consequence. But you'll be glad you read your June Letter. 


What should I do right now? 

If you feel that you understand our cancellation policy, our cancellation protection, and our method/s of payment, then by all means, sign up for services! You don't need to select your shuttles if your travel plans are unclear. You can simply sign up for our Weeklong Support and/or our Tent Service.


Go to pkbelly.com and hit Login (upper right of screen) to update an old application, or hit Apply (center of screen) to create a new application. If you are signing up for the first time, you'll create your username and password. You will pay at least 10% by credit card with your balance due by May 15th. You will have the option of selecting our Cancellation Protection. When you hit Submit, you'll receive a confirmation by email.


We're here to answer your questions, Porkers. 

Please write to tammy@pkbelly.com or call me at 712-328-0161

to talk Iowa geography, shuttles, services, prices, questions,

whatever you need, and our 2018 Week in the Corn.