Pork Belly Update #5---How Sweet It Is

May 22, 2020

"I'm losing my job of 32 years this week, in a round of COVID downsizing.... but I wanted to contribute a little bit. Do with [my donation] as you see fit. Give it to a crew member who is struggling, or towards your payroll costs, or buy lunch for the guys on staff. Pork Belly and your people have always exemplified the hard work and friendliness of the Midwest. I will miss the coffee in the morning, the sunrises, the camp dinners, the music, and the good natures and sense of humor of the PBV crew." --from Tim

"I am not registered this year, but have ridden in the past. Just wanted to reach out and say that you are all in my thoughts and prayers. Being a small business owner myself, I can so relate to the pain of having to make these kinds of decisions. Stay strong!!" ---LouAnn

"I am blessed to not need the stimulus payment that the government is distributing... I hope you'll accept this donation as a thank you for the happiness that you share every year with all of your RAGBRAI riders, not just your active ones, but your alumni." --from Kate

Dear Porkers,

 

We thank you for the kindness, the letters, the laughs, the phone calls, the gifts, the fun photos and stories, the encouraging words that so many of you have shared with us since April 20th. After a month, we owe you an update, and there's a lot to share. So much, in fact, that we are saving some news for the next one. For now, grab a cold one, sit back, and join us as we count our blessings.

 

RIGHT and BELOW: We're working our way through what one of you called "the 2020 desert," in part by taking odd jobs in between our regular work. Just this week, our crew removed landscape rock from this future flower bed. Thank you, Sue, for hiring PBV!

Because your words have meant so much to us during this time, we opened this update with excerpts from your letters, and we'll sprinkle your photos down the page, too. More excerpts from your letters below. You, friends, are really something.

 

Seven Blessings

 

Here are seven reasons for our gratitude in May of 2020, and you'll recognize yourself in at least one of them.

1) Letting It Ride

We estimate that some 80% of you who had signed up for our services on RAGBRAI 2020 have "let it ride" until 2021. Jim even offered to lend us $10,000. We are humbled and overwhelmed by your kindness and confidence in us. Thank you for your trust. The number of folks who emailed us, offering to donate their 2020 fees has left us... dazed. Although we have gratefully declined those donation offers, your generous intentions have lifted our spirits more than we can say.

 

ABOVE: Here are Chris and Lynn, 2019 first-timers. Lynn has been in touch with suggestions for our business, and we appreciate it!

ABOVE: Iowans Bob and Lynn donned their Pork jerseys and took themselves for a ride. Thank you for sending this photo to offer moral support, you two!

2) Signing Up

for 2021

We are deeply grateful to many of you who had not even signed up for RAGBRAI by April 20, but quickly signed up about nine months earlier than usual for our services on RAGBRAI 2021. You, too, are helping with payroll, insurance premiums, utilities, materials to keep moving on projects, and other expenses during this difficult year. Some of you urged us to create a gift-card option and then promptly purchased a credit toward a future event. When we wrote to you on April 20, we certainly hadn't anticipated how determined you would be to find a way to help us. We thank you.

ABOVE: Tom Kresselmeier took the trouble to snap this one. We feel the solidarity of our community in this photo, Tom! We thank you!

3) 100% Refunds

To those of you who needed your refunds--we get it. We're tightening our own belts too. Thanks for taking a moment to wish us well, to say that you hope to join us again soon. We're thinking of you and your families, and we can't wait to welcome you back to Pork Camp. We return your good wishes that we'll all land on our feet when this is over.

 

4) Surprise Acts of Kindness

Unexpected envelopes have arrived in our snail-mail box. Good heavens. Mark sent $1000, with this in the memo line: "Hospital Trailer Rental." Walter, Tim, Kate, Cheryl, Debra, and Lori have also sent donations of varying amounts. One Friday at the barn, we read your letters aloud to our crew--to a great deal of head-shaking and throat-clearing. We were completely unprepared for the extent of your generosity. With a little reluctance and a new wave of humility, we will use the donations in a way that is worthy of your big hearts.

ABOVE: Thank you, Movic Brothers, for this great photo. The Movic Siblings (including sister Mary) have ridden RAGBRAI together with PBV for years and years.

5) The Southwest Iowa Foundation

When things settle, we will be new avid supporters of the Southwest Iowa Foundation, whose board is chaired by John Burns of Council Bluffs. These folks saw our contribution of our trailers for the use of local hospital workers, and they responded with funding for that first month (April) at Mercy Hospital. When we couldn't yet see past this crisis, the foundation helped us a lot. Many thanks.

 

6) Support of New Friends

We've been hearing from a lot of folks who don't ride RAGBRAI with us. They ride with other teams and charters, but they follow us through our updates. Quite a few took a moment to type a note of support and encouragement. We have saved every letter, and we'll quote a smattering of them here. For us, these thoughtful letters show the strength and cohesiveness of the wider RAGBRAI community.

 

7) Our Guys

We have always been grateful for our crew. We have always known how fortunate we are to work with them and call them our friends. But this year, the threat of losing them has made their value to us even greater. If that's possible.

AND SO... What began a month ago as a grave crisis for PBV has been downgraded to the biggest challenge our company has faced in its 28 years, tempered with too many blessings to count.

 

We like a challenge. We're up for this. We are blessed to have hundreds of amazing people in our corner, and it's our goal to live up to your faith and friendship.

BELOW: After a late night FaceTime conversation, Billy sent me this. Now THAT is one sexy Zebra Man! Thanks, Billy.

We're Open.

As you know, the normal cycle of our business is pretty much out the window right now. By all means, feel free to sign up early for RAGBRAI 2021, or sign up for 2020 PBV-Supported cycling events (more info below).

 

We're Okay.

Friends, many of you have offered, and some of you just sent checks in the mail. Bless your generous hearts. But please know that you don't need to send donations to our business. Only if you're ready, we welcome you to sign up for a ride. We still have the gift card option available if you'd like a credit toward a future event. God willing and the creek don't rise, we are going to make it through this year in fairly decent shape, AND we'll be able to keep our crew all the way through. (Whew.) See our topic below, "Thinking Outside the Box," for other ways that our business may be useful to you.

 

Refunds

We have gone back through all of our emails twice to be sure we caught all the requests for refunds. As emails trickle in, we're sending checks immediately. If we somehow missed your request for a 100% refund, please let us know, so we can send yours right away.

 

Now that most of the refunds are out the door, we've gotten down to work on the future. Despite lingering uncertainties, the rest of this update is made up of all the good things happening.

Listen to Alicia

Before we go on, here again is the Uplifting Song and Slideshow set to the music of our Trumpet Chick. It was Alicia's idea to record this song in her NYC apartment. With the editing help of Suzanne at RAGBRAI, we were able to make it a slideshow, using some of our favorite photos from over the years. Give it a listen, and cast your mind forward to July of 2021, when we'll gather for a ride of rides.

 

WATCH AND LISTEN TO ALICIA HERE

Have You Decided?

Refund or Let It Ride?

RAGBRAI 48 will have to wait until 2021... and our route and overnight towns will stay the same. In Update #4, we offered to carry your reservation forward to next year or to make 100% refunds. We have heard from many of you, but not all. If you need/want the refund, please don't hesitate to email us, and include your snail-mail address so that we can mail a check. Here's a link to our last update:

 

Update #4, RAGBRAI Postponement

Save The Date for

the First Annual

PBV Signature Ride,

at Historic Carsten Farms, just off I-80 at the Shelby Exit,

September 18 to 20, 2020

 

For years, we have said we're going to create our own ride--but for years, we've just been too swamped during our season to get it rolling. Well, this year provides us with all the time in the world to put all our energy into planning and designing our ride. Won't you come out, bring your bike, and swing around Southwest Iowa with us this September?

The Name: On our short list, we're down to a couple. We'll decide on the name and share it with you soon.

 

A Safe Experience: We're well aware that some of you may have new concerns about bike rides and other gatherings, given our new environment. Distancing is easier at outdoor events, but we're at work on a comprehensive plan for safety. Here are some of the precautions we'll be taking:

  • Even more frequent cleaning of shower stalls, kybos, etc.
  • Greater availability of hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations
  • Social distancing considerations at the showers and during gatherings
  • A greater distance between tents on the campground
  • New safety measures when meals are served

We'll continue to work on this plan and publish more in the weeks to come.

The Vibe: After a lonely cycling season, let's get together for a harvest of fresh air and camaraderie. Bring your best pals along. Our first annual fall ride will be a laid-back, all-inclusive tour, with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and beverages included, nightly entertainment, bonfires and marshmallows, a few surprises, and a lot of laughs packed into three days.

 

The Venue: Carsten's Farm is an 1880s farmstead preserved to celebrate Iowa's farm history. The shady site is about 25 miles from Omaha, high on a breezy hill, just 1.5 miles from I-80. The non-profit board of farmers is excited to partner with Pork Belly Ventures, and they are accustomed to welcoming crowds for their own event, Farm Days, where old tractors and threshing machines and even a sawmill are on display or used for demonstration. Old quilts, weaving, canning--everything about early farm life is celebrated at Farm Days--and we're hoping that you can learn a little of that history during your time with us at the farm.

 

The Cycling: We're keeping our promise of nothing over 40 miles, but you can double that if you want to. This is a clover-leaf ride, with home base at Carsten's Farm and a different cycling loop on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Each day, we'll offer a gravel loop under 40 miles and a paved-road loop under 40 miles. These routes will intersect at your refreshment stop. If you're feeling ambitious, ride both routes, one after the other for something close to 80 miles. Heck, bring two bikes if you like--one for paved roads and one for gravel.

 

The Options:

  • You can bring your tent or rent ours--and you can park your vehicle near your tent.
  • We will offer PHAT rooms at a sweet price.
  • Bring an RV if you like--we'll have electrical hook ups for the first sixteen RVs, but plenty of space for more.
  • Non-riders are welcome--you'll have your car and you can drive out to the refreshment stop to check on your cycling friends.
  • If there's a demand for an Omaha airport shuttle before and after, we'll make that happen.

 

Registration: We're working hard on the plan, the website, the menus, the bike routes, some special guests, and some great musicians on stage. We're also paying attention to the world we live in, with hope that mid-September is a safe time to host a ride in our part of Iowa. For now, friends, save the date, and we hope to invite you to sign up in mid- to late June.

A Robust Fall Season

(We Hope)

 

In addition to RAGBRAI, our first eight events of 2020 have been cancelled, plus one August bike ride. We won't deny it--that hurt.

 

But PBV still has a dozen events on our calendar, half of which are bike rides or races. A couple more are in the works. We miss our riders, and we're dying to get busy. Like you, we hope that cycling events can go forward in late summer and fall. For those of you who are hungry to get out on the bike, here's a list of 2020 PBV-Supported Rides...

 

Lazy Horse Gravel Grind (NEW)

Ohiowa, Nebraska

7/11

 

Pedaler’s Jamboree

(PedJam)

Jefferson City, Missouri

9/5 to 9/6

 

Garmin Dirty Kanza (NEW)

(the biggest gravel race in the world,

rescheduled from spring to fall)

Emporia, Kansas

9/10 to 9/13

 

The First Annual

PBV Ride (NEW)

Historic Carsten Farms, rural Shelby, Iowa

9/18 to 9/20

 

MS150

Lawrence, Kansas

9/26

 

Big BAM on the Katy

St. Charles to Clinton, Missouri

9/28 to 10/2

 

And maybe one more new ride in July, and

one more new ride in early October—stay tuned!

We’ll keep updating this list.

At pkbelly.com, click on "More Cycling Events!"

Spread the Word

about PBV Support on

Garmin Dirty Kanza!

 

You'll remember us writing to you about this huge gravel race in Emporia, Kansas, the Mecca of the gravel world. Pete and several Porkers have done the 100- or 200-mile race. (There are shorter routes too.) Normally scheduled in May, DK was postponed until September. Actually the postponement is what opened an opportunity for Pork Belly Ventures. Our showers, tents, PHAT rooms, and other amenities are now available on the biggest gravel race in the world.

 

A handful of PHAT rooms are left. If you know gravel racers, please spread the word.

 

The link below allows you to create an account (login), and then

select Garmin Dirty Kanza

from our list of events

to peruse the support services of Pork Belly Ventures.

 

Pork Belly Ventures Lodging and Support on DK

 

On DK, we'll offer tents, PHAT rooms, and a comfort package that includes coffee, showers, and phone charging, plus a fun social zone at the fairgrounds in Emporia.

 

This group of photos came from the Duck Fart Flyers, led by Bill above in the sunglasses. Bill shared this photo of a kybo, which his friend had delivered to her home, simply for the valuable commodity of the toilet paper supply inside. The world has been a cockamamie place lately, and thank you, Bill for the chuckle! Note the Duck Fart Shot Recipe above. Kahlua, Crown Royal, Baileys, and Amaretto. These guys don't mess around.

ABOVE: Cindy snapped this photo of Wayne in his PBV Jersey, back during cherry blossom season in DC. Wayne and Cindy are members of Team Rowley--a group of Porkers who like a gin and tonic once in a while, OR every night of RAGBRAI. They like Plymouth. In fact, they sent a photo of it.

 

So far, during the quarantine time, we have enjoyed two virtual G&T parties with Team Rowley. Joining on Zoom from time zones across the world were Bill and Donna from Spain, Steve in Jersey, Frank in NYC, Tom in Santa Barbara, Greg in Seattle, Mark and Tyler in Scottsdale, and Tammy and Mike here in Iowa. Wish I'd had the presence of mind to snap of photo of my screen. When is the next one, guys?

Thinking Outside the Box

We have come up with a few brand new strategies--pretty good ones-- to carry us through this year. Most of our ideas are tied to what we do already--we serve bike rides and outdoor recreational events. We can set up for outdoor graduation parties, outdoor reunions, or gatherings of many kinds within range of Council Bluffs/Omaha.

 

While we have been trying to reinvent ourselves this year, some of the more interesting ideas have come from our riders who have experienced our services and thought of new applications for our oddball equipment. One of our alums is at work on a proposal to deploy us in an emergency management context during evacuations. Seeing the hospitals' use of our trailers, others have inquired about mobile showers and lodging to serve vulnerable populations in faraway cities. So far, these are just concepts. We're following up on every idea, large and small, including odd jobs, yard clean-up, handiman services. So if you have an idea or a need, please share it.

 

BELOW: Seeing our trailers at this Council Bluffs hospital has caused folks to think a little differently about our business. In fact, PBV is now a FEMA-approved company for disaster and emergency response.

RIGHT: You won't recognize her, but this is Lynnann from New Jersey, who has been working right through this crisis in one of the hardest hit hospitals in the east. Lynnann has been with PBV for years and years. We're so proud of you, Lynnann! Be safe!

 

 

More Encouraging Words from All of You

We've been compiling the kind notes and emails we have received during the past month. We'll share some of them here.

 

"Hi, Pork Belly Folks, Just got your newsletter about the ride being cancelled. You asked us to tell you what to do about refunds. I have another idea. Please take my money and spend it how you see fit. No refund, don't hold it to next year. If I ride next year, I'll pay again for next year's ride. I hope to see you in 2021." ---from Greg

 

"My principal reaction to RAGBRAI’s rescheduling was thinking about what a blow this will be to Pork Belly and the enterprise you have built. I have often remarked about what an extraordinary business you and Pete have fabricated out of whole cloth and hard work... I appreciate the candor of today’s Pork Belly Update, and I wish the very best to you and the team as you navigate this difficult road ahead. Most of all….stay healthy. I look forward to crossing paths soon." ---from Chris

 

"Hi, I’m a RAGBRAI veteran who has never used your service, but recognize the value you bring to RAGBRAI. So I will certainly sign up for whatever event and service you offer between now and the 2021 RAGBRAI. I’ll watch for info on a fall 2020 event and will buy a gift card in the meantime.  Thanks for your continued efforts, and hang in there!"

---from Tom

"Tammy, I'm especially thankful to be on your mailing list. I read every PBV bulletin beginning to end, even though I've not been able to ride RAGBRAI with you since 2011. Update #4 was hard to read. I teared up reading about your dad Jim's visit to the 2011 PHAT trailers in their covid-19 deployment and seeing the picture of him masked in the passenger seat, looking out the window. If you organize a future PB ride, keep us in the loop. Be well. Fully embrace the moments of happiness you have during these times. Survive, and thrive once more in the future." ---from Knox, with his cycling friends, social distancing above 

 

"Tammy and Pete, I would like a full refund, but I can wait a little bit. Here is my address… I'm praying for you and your team...looking forward to an incredible 2021!" ---from Dan

 

"I have always admired Pork Belly, only partly due to my love of bicycling... $250 gift-card payment made. Please continue your ministry. From observing you and Pete in action, it will take more than a global pandemic to get you down.  Midwesterners are used to a crop failure now and again.  😊 Truly love you guys. Let me know if I can do more." ---from Rick  

 

"Y'all are so awesome. Wish I could support y'all financially right now, but that's not in the cards. Hope to see y'all in 2021. Big hugs to you and yours." ---from Dave

 

"We would consider donating a portion of our stimulus money to your crew if they are falling on hard times due to the postponement of events this year. Please let us know if you end up collecting funds to keep them afloat. Thank you, stay safe, and we are really looking forward to next year!"

---from Julie and Jason

"Last year was my first RAGBRAI. I did it with Pork Belly, and you guys were great. I had been rounding up some buddies to do it with me this year. When we start to plan for next year, I will tell them the exemplary way you handled this entire cancellation crisis and the support you are giving to your people and the local community. By the way, that is my smiling face with my bicycle, wearing a Cycology Jersey.  THANK YOU, GOOD LUCK, and please stay safe and healthy." -- from Brian

 

"When this crisis started, I said that we would see a lot of good in people... Through my wife, who works at Mass General Hospital, I know first-hand what’s happening on the front lines. And I know that what you’ve done at your hospitals means so much to everyone there and their families. Keep up what you’re doing. We’re now rolling into week 6 of our lockdown, and it’s news like this that keeps us all smiling."

---from Doug

 

"Please use this check for whatever you want, no strings attached. I look forward to meeting you in 2021." --from Walt

 

"I've ridden RAGBRAI with you three times before, but I've been stationed overseas with my wife the last 4 years. We're due to come back in Sept 2020. And, I would like to see you continue. So can I go ahead and pay you for two people for 2021? I know you're offering the credit or gift card via the website, but I would like to go ahead and front you the entire fee. Thanks." ---from Kirk

 

"I have personally been concerned about the effect on your business, for the reasons you outlined in your letter. I would like to offer you a loan of $10,000 payable after RAGBRAI 2021. If this has any appeal, let me know and I will make arrangements. By the way, you sending trailers to the hospital is awe inspiring. All Americans need to pitch in to do what they can during this time. The loan offer will remain open to you if needed. PBV is too important to all of us." ---from Jim

"Tammy, Sorry you guys are struggling and not able to do what you are so good at doing. Please put $1000 toward next year and keep a $100 donation. Hoping the best for you, PBV, and all the great folks in Iowa." --from Debra

 

"The fact of the matter is that I had this money set aside for RAGBRAI with PBV. I sold my business so I no longer have a payroll. But you do. Please accept my payment in full. See you in 2021." ---from Brian

You can read (many, many) more excerpts from letters we have received, nearly 12 full pages of them at the time we had to stop compiling them for now, so we could publish this update. If you're so inclined, click on the link below. It will bolster your faith in human nature.

 

LETTERS FROM YOU

 

RIGHT: Knox, David, and Edna, wearing RAGBRAI jerseys on their Amelia Island Ride. Chris, the photographer, was wearing hers too! Thanks for sharing this pic, guys, and we share your hope for happier times!

Work Continues on Our New Shower Trailer

with 20 Stalls

We're snapping photos as work proceeds on the new shower trailer. We have been able to continue this project because of you who "let it ride" until 2021. Thank you all. This addition to the fleet is going to make a world of difference in Pork Camp, come July of 2021.

BELOW: Here's Dave's sweet wife, Kris, who lends her green thumbs to PBV. Kris is a wonderful gardener, and she always freshens things up at Pork World Headquarters in the springtime. Thank you, Kris!

The Paviches above and the Phillipses below. We're more grateful than we can say for your support of Pork Belly Ventures.

 

ABOVE: Joe has been riding RAGBRAI with PBV for our entire history. He brings a group from Louisville every year, and his kindnesses to us are too many to count. Last Christmas, Joe had two cases of Pork Belly Ventures wine shipped to us... a case for Mike and me and another for Pete and Kay. Needless to say, it has come in handy. We thank you, Joe.

RIGHT: Lory used her 2019 Pork Shirt to create two masks, then mailed them to us. How thoughtful. Lory, thank you!

 

How Sweet It Is

 

Thank you for reading along and for standing with us friends. We've been thinking about the 1946 Christmas classic, "It's a Wonderful Life." We all watch it at least once every December, don't we?

 

In that story, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), in a state of despair over a run on his family's small-town savings bank, learns a huge lesson. It's one of those feel-good movies in which the world, human nature, and the happy ending seem, well... a little too good to be true. Could that really happen? Would people really lend their own hard-earned money during hard times to help a small business survive?

Although no angels have appeared to us (yet), we have actually lived our own little version of "It's a Wonderful Life." During hard times, a lot of people did lend their hard-earned money to help us keep working along with our faithful crew. And we, like George Bailey, learned a huge lesson, not just about dark clouds and not giving up, but about never underestimating the goodness of people.

 

Thank you. We won't forget 2020 and the most important lesson of our nearly three decades as Pork Belly Ventures.

 

 

Our 28th year is not half over. There's plenty to do. Here's to better days, and more lessons, and the rewards of good work and good friends.

 

Until next time, we remain...

 

Your friends,

 

Tammy and Pete

 

 

 

 

p.s. This month out at the barn, Mike Pavich celebrated his 70th. It was a small party, right when we needed one.

Questions? Contact either of us,.

 

Pete: pete@pkbelly.com, 402-681-2613 c

Tammy: tammy@pkbelly.com, 808-375-8921 c