RAGBRAI 1994 Double Loop – Why??

Does anyone here remember why RAGBRAI rode a double loop for the Karras Loop in 1994? Did any of you ride that loop? We are working from home right now so I don’t have access to our “historic documents.” My Facebook friends said that we rode the same loop twice. But why not just make a larger loop? Did you have to prove you did the loop twice or did we just do Scout’s Honor? Thanks!

Picture of the loop patch: https://i.etsystatic.com/9475829/r/il/d57d1c/1989246261/il_570xN.1989246261_9g00.jpg

14 Replies

Matt, August 13, 2020 at 5:19 pm

Thanks Andrea. That is an interesting bit of trivia. Interestingly the picture of that patch says nothing about Century. Was there a century patch for 1994 and perhaps this double loop was for those that did it twice? Or like you say, it took two trips to make the century. Did riders get two patches that year (a century and double loop)? I’ve never heard of anyone doing the loop twice or it being recognized that way. When search engines fail to find information, that’s a tough one. Bring on the RAGBRAI Hive Mind! Your quote I believe ;-)


RDaryl Daryl, August 13, 2020 at 6:32 pm

I don’t think century patches were available on the loop back then. Maybe they were available for purchase at the trailers. Those were the Greenie days. . . . . .
Will have to ask my brother Darrel for verification.
I also recall the out-and-back century leg to the black dirt capital in those days.
Gotta dig out my old maps . . . . . .


RDaryl Daryl, August 14, 2020 at 7:48 am

That out-and-back was on XXIII in 1995. It was called “The Conrad Spur” from Beaman to Conrad (6 miles each way) on a Wednesday route that was already 98 miles from Iowa Falls To Tama/Toledo. They had a pile of dirt in the middle of an intersection in Conrad and riders were given souvenir plastic bags filled with dirt. The official ride maps were printed on standard 8 1/2 x 14 copy paper (pink) in 1995.


Amanda, August 14, 2020 at 7:58 am

What year did they start calling it the Karras loop? Just curious.


RDaryl Daryl, August 14, 2020 at 8:32 am

Princess Amanda-
My XXIX route map from 2001 has a 20.6 mile “John Karras Loop” on 148/G35/N28 near Anita as part of Wednesdays 83.8 mile route from Atlantic to Perry.
XXVIII in 2000 had a “Enard-Orient Century Loop” on P33/G61/25 as the 84.9 mile route departed Greenfield on Tuesday toward Ankeny.


Matt, August 14, 2020 at 9:02 am

Now this is the kind of thing that I miss from this year. Hopefully the throng gets to return next year. Having some random question come up and being able to simply turn to countless like minded people and get lots of interesting stories. Virtual is nice, but I miss the face time with all the other riders. Asking about the Spur would never have even occurred to me and now I’ve learned something new and interesting about RAGBRAI. Thanks for sharing that. BTW, from what I’ve read, a century ‘day’ was added in 1978 for an extra challenge. Then the century loop was created in 1986 due to the difficulty of finding new overnight towns 100 miles apart. The century became optional for those that wanted the extra challenge or those that didn’t. I’m completely correctable on that, since I wasn’t there. The century loop was renamed in honor of Karras in 2001 after he retired from riding in 2000.
Double loop? Anyone?


CyclingCyclone, August 14, 2020 at 9:40 am

I did it the loop, and if I remember, Karras in the paper said the double loop was just to be different. I could be wrong though and I remember the next day into Marion was another long day as I had another 100 miles to our Skunk Campsite.
If I remember right they didn’t start handing out Century patches until the ’96 edition for the 150 mile loop. before that, you had to buy one at the trailer.


RDaryl Daryl, August 14, 2020 at 9:54 am

Here is a scan of part the XXII route map.
No mention of how to get century patch.
I am not sure what participants guides looked like back then.
XXII Double Loop Map


RDaryl Daryl, August 14, 2020 at 10:10 am

Here is a closer look at that double loop century day.
XXII Wednesday


Andrea Parrott, August 14, 2020 at 11:58 am

Thanks so much for the answers everyone, this is all really interesting since we don’t have a lot of it written down (except possibly in old newspaper copy). When we are back in the office I’m going to try and dig up some old Karras articles just for the heck of it.

I had never heard of the Conrad Spur before but that is “so RAGBRAI,” getting little bags of dirt!! I would bet there’s a rider out there somewhere who still has one.

Thanks for scanning the map RDaryl, big nostalgia factor, I remember looking at a similar one later in the ’90s. How cool that we had all those radio news stations, would love to hear what they had to say about the ride that year.


KenH, August 19, 2020 at 9:27 am

The year that the Karras loop was so named is mentioned somewhere in the RAGBRAI chronicles that can be found on this website, if anyone has the time/interest to do the research. Last time I looked the chronicles did not have the few most recent years documented. I hope that someone does that before they become too poorly remembered to write up properly — hint to Andrea Parrott!

I don’t know if RAGBRAI had a century every year in the early years, you would have to consult the chronicles on that. I do know that the very first year had a century. They were relatively uncommon back then and the founders did not know if their 300 fellow riders would be up to one. Mostly they were.

My little team of four riders generally shares the driving of our support vehicle amongst ourselves since we have had little luck finding a driver for the price, free, that we are willing to pay. Do you think we are asking too much there? Anyway, my policy the last few years has been to offer to drive SAG on Karras loop day so that I can have the gravel loop day free. One year I did get a century in anyway because I did the gravel loop twice! I think that was 2017. The last two years the gravel loop has nearly done me in, there was no chance of me doing it twice and in 2018 I only barely managed to do it once. I think that the gravel loop selection process lately has been to try to replicate the Dirty Kanza in miniature. If that keeps up this old man will not be doing any double gravel loops in the future! It would be nice if in future years the route is chosen so that once around the gravel loop would bring you up to a century. A second century would appeal to those who perpetually feel the route is too short and so it might increase ridership of the gravel loop.


Matt, August 19, 2020 at 11:56 am

Good point Ken. There are 5 years of archive history missing from the RAGBRAI link here.
I looked into the century rides and I’m currently reading the book that John and Ann wrote. I highly recommend it. They actually cover this topic. There has always been a century day. It was simply included as one of the day’s rides until 1986. That year Kaul and Karras decided that is wasn’t fair for families and children to be required to ride a century (usually a bit more) and they created the optional century loop. It was changed from Century to Karras loop in 2001 (in his honor) after he retired from riding in 2000 (that’s not in the book). It was interesting to read his recap on the start of the loop though.
Side note: When he and Kaul started riding together, they were short rides like 15 miles short at best. They eventually worked up to trying a 126 mile ride after which they commented that if they can do that in one day, why not go all the way across Iowa in a week and the rest is history. The book is awesome Everyone Pronounces It Wrong. The story behind the title is great on its own.
From my memory: I think the gravel loop started in 2015 and it was never intended to be a century. I think it may have been a throwback to the early years when some gravel roads were necessary on each ride simply because there wasn’t as much pavement back then. Or maybe it’s just something for those riders that aren’t strict pavement riders. From the book: They worked with the area’s road maintenance to have them grade the gravel to the side so the bikes had safe hard surfaces to ride and then the gravel was graded back after. I’m a pavement rider so I don’t know if they grade the gravel on today’s rides, but from your description I’m guessing not.


Andrea Parrott, August 19, 2020 at 12:32 pm

Ken – love your idea for the gravel century option and have just suggested it to the rest of the team. I know I need to get working on those history pages! Up there on the “Fall/Winter to-do list.”

Matt – you’re partially correct on the origin of the Gravel Loop. Over time we had phased out the gravel riding options (Greenie loved including gravel in his routes) and at the same time, there was a resurgence in people riding only gravel. We went out to Interbike one year (2014??) and were chatting with Steve Hed, owner of Hed Cycling/wheels. He said he came up with the idea for his groundbreaking racing wheels while riding gravel on RAGBRAI. It was his idea to create an optional gravel loop since he missed that element of the routes. Unfortunately he passed away before he could see the loop but his wife and son have come out and handed out patches on the loop every year.


KenH, August 19, 2020 at 4:32 pm

I have the book that John and Ann wrote. Found it for sale in a bookshop in Ottumwa the last time we were there, 2016 wasn’t it? It’s a great book, I highly recommend it!

My memory says that the gravel loop started in 2015 and it was pancake flat and fairly well packed, at least the automobile tire tracks were packed. You could find loose stuff to ride on if you preferred. There was a farm that had a nice display of vintage tractors on the loop for us to gawk at. The loop in 2016 was a similar surface but introduced some hills. I was a Ride Right Ambassador (has the Air Force Team taken over that role?) that day and stopped to make sure a older rider (ie, about my age!) who had gone down was getting all the help he needed from the young couple who were assisting him. The Catholic church in Imogene had just been remodeled and it is lovely if you are ever in town with some time to sightsee. The 2017 was similar, maybe a little hillier, but my main recollection of it is that it was probably the most scenic of the gravel loops so far. There were some simply gorgeous spots. And I saw them twice!

The loop in 2018 started out fine, I am told, but this “gravel” road was a thin veneer of gravel over a base of the sand like loess material that gives the surrounding hills their name. The first few hundred riders were riding on gravel. Their tires quickly sliced through that gravel layer and churned the road surface into a mixture of gravel and sand, mostly the latter in many places and for long stretches. It was not a big problem until we got to the loop town, the name escapes me, where I actually saw and chatted with TJ for the first and only time in history. He told me the worst was yet to come and he had that right. It was very, very hilly and roughly the same as riding on dry sand the whole way back to the main route. I collapsed in the shade of a farm yard with some other riders and took a nap at one point. While there we were treated to a brief violin recital by another rider! If there had been a SAG wagon (do they even serve the gravel loop?) I’d have taken it, the only time so far that I felt that way! When I got back to the main route I was still resolved to SAG it. When I got to the first pass through town which was also the town where the gravel route diverged from the main route Beekmans saved my bacon. I had already visited them the first time through town, I hit them again and enjoyed a second helping while listening to a local band of younger musicians who had a girl playing bass. I tend to notice bassists because I play bass for our church band. When the concert was over and the ice cream was gone I felt almost human so I decided to ride to the next town before sagging it. One by one I felt a little stronger at each of the following pass through towns and ended the day feeling quite good actually. I call that experience The Purgatory of the Loess. It’s like the Hell of the North every year in Europe, just a little bit less eternal in the punishment it dishes out!

Last year was quite hilly again. My two riding buddies are more than a decade younger than me and I struggled all week to keep up with them on paved roads. And it was raining a lot of the time. Then, when the loop was done we turned into a strong headwind on the main road. Our support vehicle was in the meeting town when we got there so I sagged it with the driver for the day. Kinda wished I had rested a while longer and gone on but the temptation was too great. I don’t think I could have done that loop twice but under better conditions, at my own pace, I could have done it once and felt good about finishing the day. I’m not complaining, the gravel loop is intended more for younger and stronger riders. I will keep running it for as long as I can.

I have the same story as you do in my head about the genesis of the gravel loop. It might be appropriate to name it the Hed loop but I suppose RAGBRAI can have only so many named features before that becomes too unwieldy to continue.


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