RAGBRAI 2019      

Pork Belly Update #1---Shuttle Details PLUS Two Treats

February 9, 2018

Dear Porkers,


On the thrilling night of the RAGBRAI route announcement, we hurry to send our invitation letter, without a word about January 27 itself. So in addition to providing you with some important information and 2 SURPRISES, we'll pop in some photos of our day in Des Moines, our booth at the huge bike expo of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, and some neat things that happened under those purple lights at the party.


One highlight was a sweet blind-side from from Mike Boone, director of Adaptive Sports Iowa.


LEFT: Athletes of Adaptive Sports Iowa--our favorite team on the road!

BELOW: Mike Boone presented us with a token of appreciation from ASI.

For quite a few years, we've been proud to be associated with ASI, an organization that provides essential assistance and companionship to riders with visual impairments, spinal cord injuries, and other challenges. In short, they make it possible for these willing athletes to ride RAGBRAI. And you won't find anyone happier to be on the road or less inclined to complain, no matter the heat or the hills on a given day, than the members of ASI.


Besides contributing to their cause, for several years, Pork Belly Ventures has invited the whole ASI team and their co-pilots to dinner on one night of RAGBRAI. That means that you will have the pleasure of meeting them in July. Anyway, we were touched by this gesture, and the plaque now hangs in our office at Pork Headquarters.


More January 27 photos throughout this letter, and now, here's a great deal for you from a great bicycling organization...

Surprise #1:

A Valuable Offer from Adventure Cycling


Do you crave cycling adventures? When you try a membership with Adventure Cycling Association, you tap into inspiring resources and valuable tools that will ignite your dreams and plans for bicycle adventures of any kind --be it a short overnight trip, weeklong tour, cross-country ride, or an around-the-world quest.


Adventure Cycling has teamed up with Pork Belly Ventures to offer complimentary 6-month trial memberships ($22.50 value) to first-time members so that Porkers can experience all that Adventure Cycling has to offer. Your free membership will include Adventure Cyclist magazine - published 9 times a year, discounts on all maps in the 46,846-mile Adventure Cycling Route Network, members-only online resources and articles, access to our special organized tours, and much more.


Follow this link to take advantage of

your free 6-month membership today:



(This free trial membership is valid only for new members

and must be sent to a U.S. mailing address.)

Scroll for topics you need, Porkers, and

watch for Surprise #2 at the end of this letter.

More here on our route, our shuttles, and our RAGBRAI season.

The 2018 RAGBRAI Route and the Origins of Davenport

It's well over a week since our 2018 invitation went out, advising everybody of the RAGBRAI route from Onawa to Davenport. Coming in at 428 miles, this route is the fourth flattest and seventh shortest in RAGBRAI history. As many of you have probably read at ragbrai.com, “For the first time in RAGBRAI history… riders will have the opportunity to experience the Hawkeye State’s two biggest college towns in the span of one week.”  Besides Ames and Iowa City, though, we’re in little towns with populations ranging from over 15,000 to less than 2000 residents… that’s Thursday night in little Sigourney. More on our route right here...




We finish in the city of Davenport on the wide Mississippi. A surprising number of people ask us why this river town was called Davenport in the first place. Take a guess...


a. The city was named for a sofa.

b. The city was named for a port.

c. The 1897 founder named it for his buddy, Colonel Charles Davenport.

ABOVE: Here's our booth at the 1/27 bike expo. Left to Right, that's Kim, George, Lori, and Dave.


Pork Availability

We'll be keeping you posted on this topic. This season has started briskly, and I think we can say without hesitation that our emails and phone calls are up from last year. None of our services are close to being full, and you don't need to be in a hurry to sign up. We want you to have your questions answered and feel comfortable with your decision before you register with us.


For future reference, the rental tents sold out in early May of 2017 and the Weeklong Support sold out in early June. Our shuttles don't typically sell out during the season.


Our 2018 Invitation Letter

Our invitation letter, sent on 1/28, is very comprehensive. Among other topics and frequently asked questions, it contains a list of our services and prices, and you'll find it here:





A big reason for this update is to give you the scoop on all shuttles. Some of you are already buying airline tickets. That's great, but do bear in mind our shuttle departure times as you make your travel plans. You'll find a pretty thorough summary of our shuttles, and remember that all shuttle prices include your seat on a comfortable, air-conditioned motor coach, and transport of your baggage and a bicycle.


PBV Shuttles Prior to RAGBRAI


Omaha Airport to Onawa, the start town

  • Price: $40 per person
  • An hour on the coach
  • Staggered departures throughout Saturday, 7/21, approximately 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

This is our most popular airport shuttle, on the west side of the state, the nearest airport to the start of RAGBRAI most years. On Saturday, July 21, our motor coaches will depart at intervals throughout the day, beginning at about 8:00 am, with the last coach departing for Onawa at 4:00 pm. All coaches will depart from the north parking lot of the Candlewood Suites hotel at the Omaha airport.


Omaha is a great jumping-off point for people who fly to Iowa or drive in from points west, south, or northwest. We return to Omaha after RAGBRAI (see Return to Omaha below). The Omaha International Airport is served by most domestic carriers. There's a great deal of information about this shuttle in our 2018 invitation letter (link above), including descriptions and phone numbers of our side-by-side airport hotels. We have blocks of rooms at both hotels before and after RAGBRAI (Friday, July 20, and Saturday, July 28). Long-term parking is available nearby for $4.50 to $6 per day, depending on whether you choose a sheltered lot or an unsheltered lot. Valet parking from either hotel is free.


A word to the wise. It’s advisable to hedge your bets and arrive in Omaha early. For good reason, many veterans will arrive on Friday afternoon or evening. Every year, luggage is lost by airlines. Every year, flights are delayed or, God forbid, cancelled. The earlier you plan to fly into Omaha, the more likely you'll be able to pivot to Plan B. When you plan to arrive at 3:00 p.m. for our last bus at 4:00 p.m., a delayed flight severely limits your options and our ability to help. Uber has limits, too. So feel free to call me with any questions about when to arrive in Omaha: Tammy, 712-328-0161.

Our East/West Shuttle, end to start town, Davenport to Onawa

  • $156 per person
  • Approximately 5 hours across Iowa from the end-town to the start-town
  • One or more departure times on Friday afternoon, 7/20-tentatively 1:00 and 3:00 p.m.
  • Three morning departure times on Saturday morning, 7/21-tentatively 7:00, 7:45, and 8:30 a.m.


If you plan to use our East/West Shuttle, give some thought to whether you'd like to travel across the state on Friday afternoon (extra night of camping in Onawa) or on Saturday morning (one night of camping in Onawa). Those who shuttle on Friday will get settled in camp on Friday night, will check in for Weeklong Support on Friday night, and will have more time to spend at the huge RAGBRAI Bike Expo on Saturday. 


Talk to your friends and think it over. No need to tell us your departure preference now. In June, we'll be asking you which departure day and time you prefer on the East/West Shuttle.


The East/West Shuttle is a great option for those who drive to Iowa from points east (or from the south or north) and who want to park their vehicles at the end of the ride. Our shuttle carries you to the ride start, and you'll spend your week pedaling back to your car.

Des Moines Airport Hotel to Onawa, the start town

  • $124 per person, much less expensive than last year’s far-north start
  • Less than 3 hours on the coach
  • Saturday morning, 8:00 bike loading, 9:15 departure

On Saturday morning, 7/21, our coach and bike truck will stage at 8:00 a.m. in the parking lot of the Airport AmericInn Hotel, just off Fleur Drive. We will load bikes and baggage, board the coach, and depart at about 9:15. Last year, we had two motor coaches on this shuttle, and we assume we'll have two again.


Des Moines has an international airport served by many domestic carriers, and it's a good jumping-off point for many Iowans and for those who find it convenient to fly or drive into Des Moines. It could be great for those who drive up from the Kansas City area. (Des Moines is not near the beginning or the end of RAGBRAI. It's toward the center of the state.) 


We have blocks of rooms reserved before and after RAGBRAI at the Des Moines AmericInn Hotel, just off of Fleur Drive. To take advantage of our $97 rate, call (515) 285-5180 and mention Pork Belly Ventures for a reservation. For those who drive, the hotel may offer you Park and Fly for $15, allowing you to leave a vehicle in their lot for the week (subject to availability), and you may need to spend at least one night at the hotel for this parking privilege. If you don’t plan a stay at the hotel, there’s an airport parking facility just down Fleur Drive for about $5 per day. No need to reserve this facility in advance, but allow plenty of time to park and get back to catch the shuttle.


BELOW: Hors d'oeuvres after the expo and before the big party--we were missing Doug and we shot this photo and sent it to him. Wish you'd been there, Doug!

PBV Shuttles After RAGBRAI


End town to nearest Airport, Quad Cities International Airport in Moline, Illinois (MLI)

  • $25 per person
  • Half an hour on the coach, perhaps longer if there's traffic congestion, which often happens in RAGBRAI end towns.
  • Departures from Pork Camp at 1:00 and 3:00 p.m.

The cycling route on the final day of RAGBRAI is only 69 miles. On Saturday, July 28th, our coaches will depart at 1:00 and 3:00 p.m., with a third coach to depart between the two, after 1:00 and before 3:00. When booking your airline reservation, be sure to pad your schedule, as traffic is unpredictable on the last day of RAGBRAI. Our shuttle will carry you directly from our mustering area in Davenport across the river to to the Departures area of the Quad Cities International Airport. From there, you may go to car rentals, you may catch a free shuttle to any number of airport hotels, or you may go directly to the gates to catch your afternoon/evening flight.


We don't have relationships with any particular hotels on the east side of Iowa. But you will have no trouble reserving a room in advance near this airport. Simply google hotels near MLI.


A round trip into and out of one airport used to be the most economical way to fly. Now it is no longer cost prohibitive to fly into one airport and out of another. Some folks who fly into Omaha prefer to fly out of the Quad Cities, the closest airport to the end town.


[Note: we don't pick up from the Quad Cities airport before RAGBRAI, but this year, you could probably Uber from the airport to Davenport to catch our E/W Shuttle. We will be providing you with our location and a map when we have more info.]

End town, returning to Omaha Airport Hotel

  • $150 per person
  • Approximately 4 hours. 
  • Several departures between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m.

The cycling route on the final day of RAGBRAI is 69 miles. Our shuttle will carry you directly from our mustering area in Davenport to our side-by-side Omaha airport hotels.


On Saturday, July 28th, our first coach will depart at 1:00 or when all seats are filled. After that, we will release coaches as they fill, with the last coach departing at 3:00 p.m. All coaches will return to the Candlewood Suites hotel at the Omaha airport, next door to the Best Western Plus (formerly the Holiday Inn Express). A free shuttle can carry you to the long-term parking facility to retrieve your vehicle. On Sunday morning, a free shuttle can carry you to the airport to catch your flight home.

End town, returning to Des Moines Airport Hotel

  • $126 per person
  • Less than three hours on the coach
  • One or two coaches departing at 3:00 p.m.

The cycling route on the final day of RAGBRAI is 69 miles. On Saturday, July 28th, these coaches will depart at 3:00 p.m. and return to the AmericInn Hotel, just off of Fleur Drive. Subject to availability, the hotel may be able to offer you their Park and Fly arrangement, weeklong parking in the hotel lot for only $15. A free shuttle can take you to the airport on Sunday morning. 


We have blocks of rooms reserved before and after RAGBRAI at the Des Moines AmericInn Hotel, just off of Fleur Drive. To take advantage of our $97 rate, call (515) 285-5180 and mention Pork Belly Ventures for a reservation. 

Shuttles PBV Will Not Offer in 2018:

Sioux City, Sioux Falls, Cedar Rapids

Like any charter, we can only go in so many directions on a given day. We will not pick up at either the Sioux City or Sioux Falls airports prior to RAGBRAI. After RAGBRAI, for obvious reasons, we have chosen the Quad Cities International Airport very near the end town of Davenport over the Cedar Rapids airport further north.






RIGHT: With dear friend Janet of Team Gourmet. We were STILL missing Doug!

Half Hog Options with Departure Times 

Some folks can't go Whole Hog this year, and here are your options of going Half Hog, riding the first half or last half of RAGBRAI, with Pork Belly Ventures.


One Half Hog Shuttle offers an exit on Tuesday evening from our Ames campsite to the AmericInn hotel at the Des Moines airport. The other shuttle offers a way to enter RAGBRAI on Tuesday by catching our late afternoon shuttle from the AmericInn hotel at the Des Moines airport to our Ames campsite.


On Tuesday evening, 7/24, Pork Belly Ventures has a block of rooms reserved at the Des Moines AmericInn Hotel, just off of Fleur Drive. To take advantage of our $97 rate, call (515) 285-5180 and mention Pork Belly Ventures for a reservation. 


Option 1: First-Half-Hog Package (for those riding Sunday, Monday, Tuesday)  

You may choose among our shuttles to the start town, but if you're parking a car, you should park in Des Moines at our designated airport hotel and use our shuttle to the start ($124). Our prorated weeklong support is $65 per day, and three days is $195. To depart from our Tuesday overnight town of Ames on 7/24, you may take our midweek exit shuttle at about 5:00 p.m., arriving at our designated Des Moines airport hotel at about 6:00 p.m. The exit shuttle is $42. 


Hotel and long-term parking info above. 


Option 2: Last-Half-Hog Package (for those riding Wednesday through Saturday) 


To enter RAGBRAI on Tuesday afternoon, 7/24, you can take our shuttle from our designated Des Moines airport hotel to the overnight town of Ames, departing the hotel parking lot at about 3:30 p.m. and arriving at about 4:30 p.m. This Half Hog shuttle is $41. Our prorated weeklong support is $65 per day, and four days is $260. You may choose among our shuttles at week’s end, but if you parked a vehicle in Des Moines, you would use our shuttle from Davenport to the AmericInn Hotel at the Des Moines airport ($126).


On Tuesday, July 24, in the early to mid afternoon, our coach will be available to board in the parking lot of our designated Des Moines airport hotel. From there, we will depart for our Tuesday night campsite in Ames, where Half-Hoggers will check in right away at our front desk (or set off to find your charter). You may spend four days with us, pedaling into Davenport on Saturday, the 28th. From here, you can use our Davenport/Des Moines Shuttle to return you to the Des Moines airport hotel by early evening. (In fact, you can use any of our post-RAGBRAI shuttles.) 


How To Reserve Half Hog Options 

On your PBV online application, you can select the First-Half Hog (exit shuttle) or Last-Half Hog (enter shuttle) to or from Ames. You can also select partial-week support and choose the days you will spend with PBV. Unfortunately, the tent service can't be prorated; however, some half-week riders have gone ahead and taken a tent for the full week. Let us know, please, if you have questions about anything.


Des Moines Hotel and Parking for Half Hoggers 

On Tuesday, July 24, we have reserved a block of rooms at the Des Moines airport AmericInn Hotel just off of Fleur Drive. To take advantage of our $97 rate, call (515) 285-5180 and mention Pork Belly Ventures for a reservation on Tuesday night, July 24. It may be possible to use an inexpensive parking option at the hotel, depending on availability. The hotel offers a free shuttle to the Des Moines airport.


BELOW: Here's Mick, Pete, Rob, and Lori in front of the Guess-the-Route Contest, holding up their party-souvenir beer glasses.



RAGBRAI Veterans may want to skip over this section, intended for our newbies.


January 27-April 30:  This is the period when the overnight towns are making their plans. Host committees are meeting every two weeks with RAGBRAI officials, and generous volunteers are signing up to work on every aspect of hosting this huge cycling event. RAGBRAI asks all charters to let this happen without bugging our hosts for information. Although they can contact us, we cannot contact them with our questions until May 1.


March Host Town Meeting: Pork Belly Ventures and several of our fellow charter operators will attend a meeting of the volunteers from all eight 2018 overnight towns. We'll serve on the Charter Panel, and we'll visit a little with our hosts. Often we visit with Campground Chairpersons after this meeting, and early scouting dates can sometimes result from it. We love early scouting!  


Mid-March Full Route Reveal:  A map of the entire route, complete with all the little pass-through towns, will be published in a matter of weeks. And it's likely that the RAGBRAI Rider Route Maps will be published at the same time. We’ll get those maps out on our Smartphone App right away.   


April 1 RAGBRAI Deadline:  This is your deadline for RAGBRAI registration (not for PBV registration). You will be wise to sign up for RAGBRAI by early March. This is one deadline you don't want to push. 


If you decide after April 1 that you wish to ride RAGBRAI after all, just write to tammypav@cox.net.  You can still do it, no worries.  I'll explain how in a future update. 


May Day:  This is when RAGBRAI sends out the good news to all participatns. May First is when charters are allowed to contact our host towns and go looking for lovely campsites. It's when the websites of the host towns are projected to be up and running, filled with information. It's when Davenport will be posting a long-term parking form for those who plan to park a vehicle at the end of RAGBRAI.  More on all of this in future PBV Updates, but early May is a very busy and exciting time! 

July--Pork Belly Host-Town Maps: Once we do know our campsite locations, Porkers, we will publish descriptions in a June update called "Our Week in the Corn." Later in July, we will publish eight PBV Host-Town Maps, designed by our dear Pork Cartographer Bob Rebach, showing you our location each day in relation to other amenities and festivities in town. These maps will come to you via email update and via our Pork Belly Smartphone App.


RIGHT: Here's a DAY 1 map from a couple years back, just for an example. Bob Rebach does good work! Come July, you'll have eight maps for our 2018 overnight towns, complete with GeoBike statistics from Rich Ketcham.


This is a brief overview of the season, but be sure to scan the topics of each PBV update for any news, reminders, or fun stuff during the season.

And finally...


Our Hallelujah Moment of 2017

Captured on Video


Maybe the biggest surprise of RAGBRAI 2017 was an experience in Pork Camp at week's end, when we did something silly together. In the spirit of Choir! Choir! Choir!, we gathered after our Farewell Supper on Friday evening with our house band, The Ramblers, and we all sang our own Pork Lyrics to Leonard Cohen's classic "Hallelujah."


That moment was rated the most poignant experience of what turned out to be an all-time favorite RAGBRAI. Given the challenges, we applaud Pork Photographer Bob Frank for assembling what footage he shot on the ground and with his awesome drone, and also video sent in by others in the crowd, to capture the moment.

Here's your SONG SHEET. Please sit down, go full screen, and sing along...



Thanks for reading, Porkers. There is much more silliness to come. We are standing by to answer your questions, explain the logistics, and give you all the encouragement you need to take the plunge and sign up for your Week in the Corn. Until next time, we remain...

Your friends,


Tammy and Pete