Trips

This page contains descriptions of cycling trips submitted by members.
Rather than putting all the details of a trip into the newsletter, member trip experiences can be described in full using this page.

RAGBRAI 2021

RAGBRAI has grown into a HUGE cycling event.

It might take some brainstorming to determine your plan.  Different parts of the trip can be handled in different ways.  The information below is from my first-time experience with RAGBRAI so I avoid definite statements about some aspects of services.  As you consider and shop different options and services, be sure you understand all the details before committing.

Registration

Registration opens in December and closes in April.  The “Overnight” locations are announced in January.

Registrations are allocated by lottery system.  The info below is from the RAGBRAI web site.

RAGBRAI is limited to approximately 8,500 week-long riders and 1,500-day riders. Entries can exceed the number of riders allowed, so a random computer lottery takes place after all the entries are entered in the computer. You must register and provide payment to be considered for the lottery.  Just because your check is cashed, or your credit card is charged does not mean you were selected in the lottery.  If not selected, you will receive a full refund in the form of a check.

RAGBRAI had too many entries over the past few years and has had to turn away riders in the lottery.  The odds of getting in the lottery are very high, but certainly not 100%.  Entries that miss the deadline will not be entered into the lottery.

 The computer lottery can select individuals or groups of more than one person so that people who wish to participate together are not split up. In order to be considered in the lottery as a group, the members of a group must register as a group and appoint one person to be the GROUP CONTACT. That person is responsible for sending one payment to cover all costs of the group, registering vehicles if desired, taking delivery of the group’s Participant Packet in June, and distributing the participants’ credentials and merchandise.

For week-long riders, it is not on a first-come, first-served basis.  Everyone who completes the registration process between December 7 and April 1 will be included in the lottery.  Day riders are not subject to the lottery.

I’ve heard that charter services count as a single registrant which means getting booked with a charter service is pretty much a guarantee of getting a spot in the event.  However, charter services can’t book someone unless they have a registration number.  I plan to research this and will post updates here and in the newsletter as I find out more.

Getting to and from Iowa

Driving
This would require at least one traveling companion who would drive ahead and meet up along the way at one or more of the pass-through towns and / or at the day’s overnight town.  The vehicle could carry the bike(s) tents, sleeping bags, gravity shower bag and anything else one would need for overnight camping.

Flying
I flew into and out of Des Moines International Airport.   Des Moines is in the center of the state which can reduce the time spent on the shuttle busses.    Depending on the start and end towns, you may decide to use different airports for arriving and departing.  Charter services typically offer one-way fares for their shuttle busses so you may not necessarily be locked into using one airport.

There are 4 hotels just outside the Des Moines airport; Days Inn, Hampton Inn, Quality Inn and Americinn which is where I stayed and don’t recommend.   All 4 hotels are within easy walking distance of each other so if your charter service shuttle picks up at one you are not staying at, don’t sweat it, just give yourself more time to walk over.   The 4 hotels also share an airport shuttle van.   Contact the hotel front desk for details.

Shipping Your Bike

If you are driving to and from Iowa, it is assumed you are handling your bike as part of that so you can skip this section.

Airline:
The airline will ship your bike on your flight.  This is probably the cheapest option.  Many people use a surplus shipping box from a local bike store or purchase a new shipping box.  They are available on Amazon and eBay.   However, better than a cardboard box is  a hard shell, wheeled case that you can rent from Tri-Zone in Los Alamitos.  The charge is $50 for the 1st week and $10 a week after that.  For an additional fee, they will pack your bike for you.  Contact them well in advance as they may have a significant lead time.  If you plan to ship your bike via airline, visualize having to get it into and out of airports, hotel shuttle busses, elevators, hotel rooms, charter shuttle busses, etc.   Many people do it, I’m just sayin, consider all options and think about it before deciding.

Bike Shipping Service:
There are a couple of bike shipping services that will send a carrier such as UPS or FedEx to your home or local bike shop to pick up your bike shipping container, ship it to the start city, un-pack and reassemble the bike and reverse the process at the end city.  Rates vary based on the insured value of the bike.  Check out www.bikeflights.com and sendmybike.com.   Some charter services include a bike shipping option.

 Charter Services

Officially sanctioned charter services will not book you without a RAGBRAI registration number.  I highly recommend not booking any services, flights, hotels, etc., until you receive confirmation of your RAGBRAI registration and your registration number.

Charter services typically provide the following:

  • Airport city to start city shuttle bus (motor coach)
  • Airport city to start city bike transport (if a bike shipping service was not used)
  • Baggage transport between overnight towns
  • Overnight camp sites with porta-potties, electronics charging stations, showers, shade pop-ups and chairs
  • Rental tents (with or without an air mattress)
  • Air pumps
  • End city to airport shuttle bus (motor coach)
  • End city to airport bike transport

Most charter services offer varying levels of support.  Some provide a meal; I believe most do not.  Plan on paying for food as you go.  The service I used did not provide any bedding for the air mattress and I expect other services do not.  Doing it again, I would not pack a comforter but use a blanket and a travel pillow that would be easier to pack.

You can typically build a service package that caters to your plan.  Bike shipping, baggage handling, and tent rentals can usually be added à la carte.  Some charter services can be cancelled but they usually deduct a fee to cover processing, overhead, etc.  Be sure you understand the details before committing.

The RAGBRAI web site lists all the officially sanctioned charter services.   Some charter services get fully booked rather quickly so it is important to have your plan and get registered with a charter service as soon as possible.

I contracted with Central Iowa Charters (CIC) who provided everything in the above list as well as tent setup and tear down, in camp baggage handling, an air mattress, outdoor shower stalls that required  a personally owned gravity shower, free water and coolers with bottled water, Gatorade and beer at nominal prices.  I felt the service was pretty good.  One of their trucks broke down before reaching one of the overnight towns so there was a delay, but this did not significantly impact me as I did not go to camp until later in the day.

The charter tent camps are typically located in public parks and high school athletic fields.  Train tracks were not very far away, and the occasional middle-of-the-night train can interrupt one’s sleep.

Packing

I packed all my cycling gear in a carry-on bag.  Helmet, saddle bag, shoes, pedals (packing instructions said to leave them off the bike), Garmin, GoPro, blinker, gloves, sunglasses, and kits.  This way, if the airline lost my checked luggage, I could still ride.   Water bottles, spare tubes and cartridges were in the checked luggage.    TSA does not permit CO2 cartridges in carry-on luggage and batteries are not permitted in checked luggage.

I packed linen and a pillow for the rental air mattress, post ride clothing, nutrition bars, water bottles and miscellaneous travel items in my checked bag.

I also recommend small tubes of lip balm and sunscreen to carry in a jersey pocket and a larger bottle of sunscreen for applying before starting the day’s ride.

If you are a light sleeper and have booked a charter service with camping, I recommend bringing ear plugs to muffle the noise of camp life.

I recommend cleat covers.  Unless you bypass the main street, you dismount when entering the downtown area and walk to the other end.  With 40 passthrough towns, this can affect cleats.

Bring cash but only enough to cover the first 2 days.  The businesses  that move with the ride can do ATM and credit card transactions.  Organizations like 4H, high schools, firemen and churches are cash only.  I saw a “Casey’s” gas station / quick-mart at least once every day and they have ATM machines if you need more cash.

Vendors, Food, Food and More Food

CIC did not provide any food and I believe this is common.  The charter services only stop at the overnight towns so food, water, etc., are your responsibility during the ride but this is all plentiful in the pass-through towns.

Pass-Through Towns:

  • At the outskirts, lemonade / water / snack stands manned by children and their parents.
  • In town, DJ playing music, local organizations such as firemen, high schools and 4H clubs selling breakfasts and refreshments.  The firemen usually had pancake breakfast while others offered breakfast burritos or breakfast sandwiches.  Home baked goods, water, Gatorade, snacks of all kinds, etc.  Bars, coffee shops, convenience stores and restaurants were open as well.
  • Hundreds of cyclists navigating through food lines, bathroom lines, etc. or just walking through to get back on the road.
  • Porta-potties and a first aid station
  • Bike repair stations that could handle just about anything.

Between Towns:

  • “Mr. Pork Chop” had a roadside location every day, white smoke billowing from his grilles.
  • Beekman’s Home-Made Ice Cream
  • Beer tents
  • Ambulance patrols
  • Some highway closures and intersection traffic control by Iowa State Police.

Overnight Towns:

  • Same as the pass-through towns but on a larger scale.
  • A variety of food trucks
  • One or more local churches hosting pasta dinners (think good AC, good food and quiet)
  • One or more stages for live music with performances going from late afternoon until 11:30 PM.
  • Bike repair tents that sell parts, tubes, cartridges, tires, helmets, shoes, clothing, nutrition and just about anything else you could possibly need.
  • Shuttle service between the downtown / festival area and the charter camps.

 The Riding

The route changes every year.  The 2021 route cut across the northern part of the state.  The landscape was mostly flat with 2% – 3% rollers. There was one hill of 10% that I remember but it was short, like those south of Newport Coast Drive. Oceans of corn fields and a string of cyclists as far as the eye can see is the best way to describe the scenery.

Cyclists of pretty much every level.  Not many paceline groups as this is not something the typical RAGBRAI rider would do.  I was cautioned about the pacelines as some participants jump on with little or no experience while, at the same time, some of the much slower riders are in or wandering into the left lane.  I latched onto a couple of paceline groups which was fun, but the warnings were accurate.

Traffic was virtually non-existent due to road closures managed by the Iowa State Police.  I estimate the number of cars that passed on the left to be less than 20 the entire week.

Distances between the pass-through towns ranged between 6 and 20 miles.  Each pass-through town was clogged with cyclists so dismounting and walking through is the normal practice (the cleat covers were handy here).  Sometimes, before the dismounting point, I would cut in for a block or two, then ride parallel to the main street and cut back to the route.   If I needed water, food, or bio-stop, I would stay on course and go into the town / festival center.  Before getting into any waiting line, cyclists find a spot and prop their bike against a vertical surface.  A few towns provided central bike parking, but most did not.  I usually put my GoPro and Garmin in my helmet and took with me, but thefts did not seem to be a problem.

 Cool Breeze Century

The “Cool Breeze” century is held yearly, except for 2020, in mid-August with the ride going from Ventura to Goleta and back to Ventura. The start location has moved to downtown Ventura which is more convenient.

The ride is hosted by the Kiwanis and the Channel Islands Bike Club and is well supported with well stocked rest stops at 12 miles, 25 miles, 53 miles (lunch provided), 70 miles and 88 miles. Multiple SAG vehicles roam the route. A post-ride meal used to be included with registration but is now offered for $11.00 at time of registration.  Route options include a metric century, the standard century, the “hilly” century and a double metric.

Click here for registration.

Because of the drive getting there, you may prefer to get to Ventura Friday evening, have dinner downtown and a hotel for an easy, early start.

There is decent range of hotels and rates.   For 2021, I stayed at the Clock Tower Inn which was a couple of blocks from the packet pick up and start location, but I don’t recommend it.  My room did not have a desk and internet access was so bad as to be useless. Downtown Ventura has a plethora of restaurants with the entire main street limited to foot traffic and lots of outdoor seating.

Morning temperatures are cooler with overcast skies until late morning, say 11sh. Arm warmers are nice to have but I wasn’t uncomfortable without them.

Cool Breeze is quite scenic with a good variety of terrain and surroundings.

  • 4100 feet of elevation gain
  • 6 miles of dedicated bike path, for each direction, along the 101 freeway
  • The northbound route cuts inland at Rincon Beach (12 miles from the start)
  •  One climb of roughly 6 miles
  • 3 1/2 miles of East Rd / West Rd type twists and turns (road condition is a little rough in spots here
  • At 56 miles, heads west for the return leg along the coast

If you don’t mind doing a century the week before the club century, are up for a remote start and some great cycling terrain and scenery, I highly recommend this ride as an out-of-town excursion.

Cool