Day 5 RAGBRAI riders rack up 110-plus miles on optional Karras Loop

  • 29 July, 2021
  • Philip Joens

Stone City — Making a long day’s ride even longer, some of the most intrepid cyclists on Thursday’s Day 4 of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa achieved a so-called “century” by completing the optional Karras Loop on the route from Waterloo to Anamosa.

The detour boosted the regular route’s 84.7 miles — already RAGBRAI’s longest stretch — to close to 111. But the real challenge was the climbing. The loop added 1,700 feet of elevation gain to bring the day’s total to 3,894 feet.

Rita Pacha of the Quad Cities suburb of Eldridge chose not to push on for the extra miles, and waited in Anamosa for members of her team who did.

She said she thought the difficulty was magnified by the fact that the loop began close to the end of the regular ride.

“Psychologically it was devastating because you’re at the end of the route and you’re just starting the loop,” she said.

Among the roughly 3,000 undeterred cyclists among the more than 15,000 total was first-time RAGBRAI rider Dan Schultz of West Bend, Wisconsin. But he said the extra miles came as a price.

“I’m not feeling it now as much, but I was certainly feeling it during,” he said after completing the ride. “It was painful during.”

Though tough, the loop rewarded riders with classic rural Iowa scenery and a spin through Stone City, a place whose quaint beauty inspired iconic Iowa painter Grant Wood to found an artist colony there. While the colony and most of the town along the shores of the Wapsipinicon River are long gone, the town’s former general store, built of the quarried stone the town was named for, still stands. It now houses the General Store Pub.

There was one disappointment: In the unrelenting August heat, the loop’s namesake, John Karras, 95, a retired Des Moines Register journalist who co-founded RAGBRAI in 1973, had to limit to 45 minutes his appearance at the end of the route, where he hands out patches to those who complete the loop.

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