RAGBRAI XLV Countdown – July 23-29, 2017
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Karras: Ready to RIDE RAGBRAI Again?

By John Karras, RAGBRAI Co-Founder

As the Register’s Annual Great  Bicycle Ride Across Iowa looms in the near distance, two  notions and a question scurry about in my mind.

The question, of course, is whether I’ll finally get my legs back under me enough to get back into the fray. One of the reasons we moved back to Des Moines from Colorado in late January was that our legs no longer agreed to ski or hike at 9,000 feet. It also was becoming increasingly difficult to breathe.

As for the notions:

Notion One — I recently realized that I am now the same age as Clarence Pickard was in 1973 when he became a one-week Iowa legend by pedaling his second-hand woman’s Schwinn, green and white, over every mile of that first year’s ride (which included, incidentally, consecutive hundred-mile and eighty-mile days). That age was, and is, 83. It gives one pause.

Notion Two — I can’t get notion one out of mind.

As for the question, it is, simply: When I get to the end of RAGBRAI week, will I be saying, “You were a better man than I am, Clarence Pickard”?

Not that there’s any competition here. After all, I’m at an age when competitiveness is ludicrous (I’m also at an age when lifetime guarantees don’t mean diddly), and Clarence, sad to say, is dead. Some competition.
And when you put all of the above into a sack, shake it up then look inside, what do you see? Why, there’s nothing there but nonsense. Sensible eighty-three-year-old guys don’t worry about such stuff (I have no idea what sensible eighty-three-year-old guys worry about, other than death).

Moving on, people often ask me about Donald Kaul, the other co-founder of RAGBRAI. Good question. He’s alive and relatively well (he’s also no longer a spring chicken) and living in Ann Arbor, MI, with wife Sue. I’ve tried calling him the last two days but he’s not answering. Eventually, he will, and I’ll get a better response for the question.

Later.  Actually talked to Kaul.  Like me, he’s threatening to get on his bike again this year, but probably not in Iowa, unfortunately.

Other than that, my wife, Ann, and I are luxuriating in the elegance of living at Scottish Rite Park here in Des Moines. We moved in Feb. 1 and think it’s the best decision we’ve made in at least the last 10 years. Good food, pleasant staff and lovely accommodations.

We’ve been out on our bikes a couple of times, but will have to put in a lot more miles between now and RAGBRAI week to get into any kind of form.

5 Responses on “Karras: Ready to RIDE RAGBRAI Again?


May 15, 2013 at 8:58 am

Welcome back to Iowa John and Ann, good to read that you have come to your senses and returned to this wonderful state. See ya on the trail.

Anne Carothers-Kay

May 15, 2013 at 3:03 pm

John: Even if you don’t ride, I hope to see you again at the downtown Des Moines RAGBRAI party!

Rose Farver

May 15, 2013 at 5:24 pm

The highlight of my first Ragbrai, last year was meeting you on the loop in Stanford! What an amazing experience! Thank you for this crazy wonderful thing called Ragbrai!


May 15, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Glad to have you back in the state. My intro to Ragbrai was the first time it left from Council Bluffs. I was on my big brother’s Schwinn Varsity. Had to be sure I was off the saddle and ready to put a foot down when ever we stopped. While I don’t think I’ll ride that Schwinn again I may ride as far as I did that 2nd? Year. Home to Ho-Jo’s to home. About 10 miles sorry to say but I was still in high school and didn’t have a reliable person to go with me.

Jerry Ask

May 16, 2013 at 7:29 am

Mr Karras, Hope to see you again on the Karras loop.

Was an honor to meet you & get my patch from you last yr!

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