House a RAGBRAI visitor. It can be fun. Just ask Denise Niebuhr and Kathy Hoskinson, both of Perry and on the RAGBRAI Housing Committee.
They aren’t afraid to share their experiences with RAGBRAI over-nighters as they work to fill housing requests in the last month before the overnight stay on July 22.
Their work is cut out for them. There is still a need to fill about 150 housing requests, a variety of which include space for tents, in-house on the floor or in a bed, RV hookups and a few specialty requests due to health issues.
Anyone interested in hosting should call the Perry Chamber of Commerce at 515-465-4601 and leave information about you have available in housing. The biggest request is from the 93 people who have requested to stay in someone’s house, either on the floor or in beds.
"We will probably be calling people we know very soon to see if we can get enough people to fill the housing requests," Hoskinson said.
Denise and Butch Niebuhr have hosted visitors each time the huge bike ride has come through town. "The most we’ve had is about 15 people. When that large group stayed, we let them stay inside the house or in tents in the yard, whatever they wanted," said Denise.
The very first time they hosted visitors, there were four people, a father and son duo from Virginia and two retired doctors from Minnesota.
"We volunteered to host because we wanted to meet people from different states," Denise said. "They usually like to find out a lot about the host family too, so you end up visiting a lot."
The first two times they hosted they cooked Iowa Chops for their guests to give them a true Iowa eating experience. However, since then, they have gone with their guests to food venues throughout town to support Perry vendors.
"RAGBRAI people who stay really aren’t usually even around that much. Usually the people making the overnight stay requests are people who don’t want to be in the campgrounds because they want more peace and quiet," Niebuhr said. "They often go to bed early and get up early as well. It isn’t unusual for riders to be out the door at 6 a.m."
Niebuhr emphasized there is no obligation for host families to feed their visitors. In some cases, the only thing a visitor wants to use is lawn space and the bathroom. Some people bring sleeping bags to sleep on a guest host’s floor. A few want beds.
Hoskinson she was a bit apprehensive about letting people she didn’t know stay overnight the first time she hosted a RAGBRAI group. She had questions like whether they needed meals, showers, whether she had enough towels, whether they would party all night and if she would have to entertain them.
"Against my better judgment I agreed to take five gentlemen from New Jersey. My entire family (husband and two young sons) hit it off immediately with them. They all had such interesting backgrounds, all so appreciative of us hosting them for the night," she said.
"We (Kathy and husband Darr) really did gain new friends. We exchanged Christmas Cards and every time Perry is an overnight stop for RAGBRAI Bill and his friends from New Jersey are welcome guests in our home. It has been 12 years since we’ve seen them last, and talking to them about their trip to Perry this year was like catching up with old friends. When we first hosted them many years ago we were all much younger. Now Bill and friends are retired and I am a grandma."