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Pork Belly Ventures pitches camp

Vendor delivers a stylish stay

July 25, 2012
Hans Madsen - For the Daily Freeman-Journal ( , The Daily Freeman Journal

When the Pork Belly Ventures RAGBRAI outfitter travels across Iowa during the annual bike ride - it does it in style.

The small city it set up in Nokomis Park included two semi-trailers with luxury hotel rooms built in, shower trailers, large tents with cooling misting fans, a custom-built trailer with bathrooms and dozens upon dozens of tents set up on the two baseball diamonds down in the crook of the Boone River.

Then there are trailers used to haul the riders' luggage, equipment, spare bikes, and a bus to transport people who choose to sit out the day's ride.

Article Photos

-Daily Freeman-Journal photos by Hans Madsen
A lone RAGBRAI rider looks for his assigned tent Tuesday afternoon in the Pork Belly Ventures franchise at Nokomis Park. The nearly 1,000-strong group camped — or for a lucky few, enjoyed an air-conditioned hotel room built into a semi-trailer.

Co-owner Pete Phillips said what the riders find when they arrive in the park is the result of a lot of work already done.

"We scout the site ahead of time," Phillips said. "We try to anticipate everything."

While the latter may not always be possible, Phillips does ask a lot of questions before choosing a spot.

"Where's the tent grid going to go? Where will we drop bags?"

He said that there is no such thing as the perfect spot, but he was very happy with Nokomis.

"We consider this a homerun spot," Phillips said.

Of course, a homerun wasn't possible until the group moved in, meaning both baseball diamond's fields were covered with tents.

Rusty Shenk, of Tampa, Fla., took advantage of Pork Belly's bus service to get to Webster City Tuesday. He was spending a few minutes looking though a 100-foot-long pile of luggage - for a few friends.

"I'm trying to find their luggage," he explained.

In spite of living in a hot humid climate, he was still felled by the Iowa climate.

"It got me yesterday," he said.

Shenk said he enjoys traveling with the group of almost 1,000.

"They make it much more comfortable," he said. "We have showers and tents to sit under."

Dennis Rael, of Arcata, Calif., is another participant riding with Pork Belly Ventures. It had been a while since he'd seen an Iowa road.

"The last one I did was 14 years ago," Rael said.

His inspiration this time was his daughter, Trula.

"She wanted to go," he said.

Rael likes the overall support he gets by riding with an outfitter, he said.

"They cover you."

Tamara Pavich, co-owner of Pork Belly Ventures with her brother, Pete Phillips, said she started the outfit in 1986 and her brother joined the effort in 1994.

They have well-defined roles.

"I do the people part. He does the hardware," Pavich said.

One of those hardware roles was designing the luxury suites built into the semi-trailer. She said they are in high demand by riders and that getting onto the list for first refusal will cost a $200 donation to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

"They're in like Flynn if they're willing to give money to charity."



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