April 20, 2020
You have been incredibly patient. We have appreciated your wonderfully upbeat and encouraging letters and phone calls. Your fun photos have kept on coming right through last week. Perhaps you'll never know what they have meant to us.
But our wait is over now, and sadly, RAGBRAI 48 will not take place this year after all. For reasons that are probably apparent to everyone, the ride has been postponed until July, 2021.
BELOW: Thank you for this one, Janice!
For Dieter Drake and Anne Lawrie, the RAGBRAI leadership team, the question was bigger than "how long until the news starts getting better?" Every community's resources and precious volunteer time must be devoted to dealing with the coronavirus, and precious host-town planning time for RAGBRAI has gotten away from them.
To their credit, our friends Dieter and Anne have included bike shops, charters, and representatives from our overnight towns in discussions leading up to their decision. They and we hope that the timing of this announcement allows you to change reservations and adjust travel plans.
The route of RAGBRAI 48 will not change, so these same wonderful overnight towns, these same enthusiastic volunteers, have a big jump on their planning for July 25-31, 2021. We hope that most, if not all, of you will mentally shift your excitement and anticipation to our next Week in the Corn.
All of our May and June events have already been cancelled or postponed, and those decisions were excruciating for these mom-and-pop event producers. Of course we partner with many small businesses on RAGBRAI, from our food vendors and caterers to our kybo guy. All of these folks support families and bring a needed boost to small-town economies. For them, this will cut deep, and it hurts to see it happen.
And our hearts are heavy as we think of own dear crew, who have counted on us for event work in the spring, summer, and fall. We have been incredibly fortunate to work alongside these dependable friends, who normally staff over 20 PBV events each season. We will likely have no work for most of our crew this year. They'll be fine, of course. They are a talented, capable group, but still... we truly hate to let them down, and we look forward to the mother of all reunions in 2021.
ABOVE: We can't include photos of over 100 faithful Pork Belly crew members who work tirelessly during RAGBRAI. You'll find more crew photos and other favorites in our slideshow below.
For 27 years, a wonderful part of our job has been to bring you happy news. But these are unusual times.
As you can imagine, we're trying to get a grasp of the short- and long-term future of our company. Our business is cyclical. During the winter months, we still pay wages. That's the best time to build equipment, like the new shower trailer this year. While we all know of small businesses that are trying to weather one-, two-, or three-month closures, we're aware of few who, like us, stand to lose a year of operation or who could survive a 90-100% loss of annual revenue.
But, we're lowering our expectations. We can spend savings. We can borrow. We're cutting expenses. And we're prepared to sell equipment. What we can't get our heads around is letting go of Dave or George or Dillon, our essential guys who work with us year-round. We're not willing to lower our expectations to that level, and here's what we're doing about it.
Out at the barn, we meet every Friday morning with our guys, talk about the many months between now and normal, and brainstorm ways to come through those months together. As soon as it was available, we applied for federal paycheck protection for the guys--which will get us a couple months down the road. We're exploring new ideas and thinking outside the box. We're hoping to eke out a small fall season of events. After talking about it for years, we're finally preparing to host our own ride (more on that below). We're continuing to look for ways to reinvent ourselves. No two ways about it, this is a devastating moment for many small businesses, but we're determined to weather it and welcome you back to Iowa next year.
Many of you, already weary of home-alone time, have been holding out hope that RAGBRAI could be "that something to look forward to." To you eager newbies whose first-time excitement carried right through the phone, and to our dear old friends whose good company we have enjoyed for years, what can we say? We'll keep in touch, right? We'll keep in shape! We'll keep the faith, and we'll see you down the road in July of 2021.
Regarding your reservations with us, our normal cancellation policy does not and should not apply during a global crisis. Rather, we are offering our riders choices, outlined below.
Some of you may have lost jobs, and, like us, are facing a heavy lift financially. We are thinking of you, friends, and you can count on a quick 100% refund from PBV.
For those who are not affected so immediately and who are planning on their Week in the Corn in July of 2021, we invite you to hang on to your reservation, leaving your deposit on account.
As you consider several options below, we want you to make the best decision for your situation. We are prepared to make 100% refunds for everyone. However, by leaving your reservation and deposit in place, you will obviously help us with cash flow, including wages, during the tough months ahead.
And if you would like to talk about anything at all, please know that visiting with our riders is a real bright spot for us, now more than ever. We invite you to call:
Tammy: 712-328-0161 h, 808-375-8921 c
Pete: 402-681-2613 c
PBV has never made more than a few dozen refunds during any season. To make a refund, we need to collect information from you, hand-write a check, address an envelope, and put it in the mail. We appreciate your patience with our process.
We want to be sensitive to those who need their refunds sooner than others, and so we're asking you to assess your own situation and rank your level of need--see five options below.
Write us an email, please, and see our instructions below on what to include in that email. Importantly, see the rankings below and rank your own need. Here are our suggested rankings...
0--Keep what I have paid and hold my spot with Pork Belly Ventures for July 2021. No refund; rather, a reservation and a credit for next year's RAGBRAI. (We'll send you a new confirmation.)
1--I have paid in full. Please keep my 10% deposit for 2021, but please refund the other 90%... and I can wait a little.
2--I have paid in full. Keep my 10% deposit for 2021, but please refund the other 90% right away.
3--Please refund 100%, but I can wait a little.
4--Please put me first in line for a 100% refund.
We assume that--for those who wish to keep their reservation-- most of you will apply your credit to RAGBRAI 2021; however, you can apply your existing credit to any Pork Belly Ventures event in 2020 or 2021. Just give us those instructions in your email. And you don't have to decide now--you can change to another event later on.
Do remember that if you tell us to let it ride until next year, you can change your mind later on. Right up until March 14th, 2021, you can ask for your 100% refund. For those who let it ride from RAGBRAI 2020, our regular cancellation policy will go into effect on March 15th of 2021. On or after March 15th, we would make the usual 90% refund if you were to cancel then. Our complete cancellation policy is included on our web site (from the home page, click Cancellation). Except for this 2020 exception, the policy has not changed.
Once you determine your rank, write us an email like the example below.
We'll start writing checks and mailing refunds immediately.
Some of you have called or written to suggest a gift card option. RAGBRAI also suggested it, and so we have created an event called "Credit or Gift Card." We welcome you to consider this option, too. Here's a link:
to be used on any 2020 or 2021 event.
If you use our website to purchase this option, we remind you about the credit card processing fee. To avoid that fee, just write a note saying you'd like a credit with PBV or a gift card, and mail a check for an amount of your choice to PBV LLC, 412 Forest Glen Drive, Council Bluffs, Iowa 51503. We thank those who kindly suggested this option.
We have kept all your letters, folks, and your friendship makes our days brighter. We're okay. We're no strangers to problem solving, and things keep changing. For us, this is a time for remembering what's most important and focusing on what good we CAN do.
And one thing we can do is make our trailers available to hospitals in our area. As you know, medical workers are putting in very long hours, and sometimes they need a place to rest or shower. Sometimes health care workers can't make it home between shifts or they may feel the need to distance from family members for a prolonged period.
ABOVE: Our crew returned to Mercy yesterday to continue our set-up.
Our hotel trailers, shower trailers, and the Royal Flush are now set up and operating at Mercy Hospital in Council Bluffs. These will serve medical workers at both local hospitals in Council Bluffs, Mercy and Jennie Edmundson. We have placed two trailers at Immanuel Hospital in Omaha, just across the river. The terms of our agreement were simple. The use of the trailers, delivered on April 7th, was free. We're so glad to be able to contribute--in our small way--to our community's action plan.
More recently, our friends and partners at Mercy and Jennie have applied for funding, which may provide us some compensation. In our current circumstances, and in our effort to keep our valued employees, we would gladly accept it. Normally, we would insist on our original agreement and allow the funding to be used for other community needs. But this is a time when everybody, including us, must give whatever help we can and accept help, too. We thank our local partners, and we will gladly continue to provide the trailers at Immanuel in Omaha at no cost. We have been in touch with other Omaha hospitals about donating the use of additional equipment as well.
ABOVE and BELOW: Mike and Mick, putting decks on the hotel trailers at Immanuel. We are so glad to be of use to our hard-working medical workers on the front lines of this crisis. This was a happy day.
ABOVE: The administrators of Immanuel Hospital with some of our crew.
BELOW: Our set-up at Immanuel, all finished.
BELOW: I drove Dad--Jim Phillips--up to see the trailers at Mercy here in town. He was a big part of building and wiring our first two PHAT trailers in 2011, and he loved seeing them put to this special use.
Another bright spot... we're putting together our own Pork Belly Ventures three-day ride, and we're determined to make it your 2020 favorite. We found a beautiful venue and drove bike routes a few days ago. We have thought back on all of our favorite memories of RAGBRAI--some of them from 20 years ago. We may never bring back the "ugliest couch" idea, but we're thinking of pancakes, tiny towns, shady parks, scavenger hunts, good music, bonfires. star-gazing, and nothing over 40 miles. More on this to come.
We see bright spots all over the place, in smiles and waves of our neighbors, and in the handmade signs in their windows. Generosity is going viral too, and we see good folks coming through for our local homeless shelter, our non-profits, our restaurants, and our churches.
More than ever, it's time to reach out. We all need to hear the words, "Hey, it's me---just calling to see how you're doing." Find your own way to come through for somebody. Be a bright spot. It will help us all keep the faith until this, too, passes.
Thank you, Porkers, for planning to spend your best week of the year with us. We'll have to wait longer for RAGBRAI 48, but you know what comes to those who wait. Join us in 2021, won't you? Until next time, we remain...
Tammy and Pete
We saved you a final BRIGHTEST SPOT, a video of our Trumpet Chick, Alicia Rau, Iowa farm girl turned New York City musician. We're sorry to say that it will be a while until we hear her morning reveille in person or her tender rendition of What A Wonderful World as the sun goes down on Pork Camp.
THANK YOU, ALICIA! Our friends at RAGBRAI helped us by editing the slide show to go along with Alicia's music. THANK YOU, SUZANNE, for the editing!
Here is your farewell-for-now gift from PBV.
ABOVE: Pete shows a room to one of the Immanuel administrators. Bob sets up decks on the hotel trailers, along with Mike. BELOW: After cleaning rooms and decks, Pete visits with Kevin, our primary contact at Mercy here in town.
The best bright spot? The last week of July, 2021!
See you there.