On RAGBRAI Near Deep River, Iowa. Photo by Trish Nelson

(Editor’s Note: Trish Nelson is taking a break from editing Blog for Iowa this July and August. One of her annual activities is riding RAGBRAI and she sent some photos of her experience this year. This is also her remembrance of the early years of RAGBRAI when the late Donald Kaul and John Karras would ride the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa they started).

We did frequently encounter Kaul and Karras on RAGBRAI in the early years. In small town bars (mostly Kaul), and on the road. Mostly we’d see Karras wearing his Des Moines Register RAGBRAI jersey, walking around the small towns and the stops, carrying a notebook and dutifully recording every name of every civic group and every person who made the best pie or cinnamon roll or homemade ice cream, etc.

Civil War Muskets in the Poweshiek County Courthouse. Photo by Trish Nelson

A part of the morning routine would be to read Kaul and Karras’s columns the next day in the Register because the special RAGBRAI edition would be delivered to the campground. Kaul basically did color commentary and Karras did play-by-play.  They were an integral part of the early RAGBRAIs.  Today, there are so many riders you could go all week and never see Kaul and Karras even if they were along. But back then, you could see the same people all week.

One year, Karras rode by me toward the end of the 100 mile day (those used to be obligatory, not an optional loop) and I guess I must’ve looked pretty tuckered out because he asked me if I was okay. I was. This was when the road was much less crowded than it is now and you actually conversed with strangers.  Also, my brother was one of the few who rode the entire day on the infamous “soggy Monday.”  He remembers seeing Kaul at the last town before the overnight town.  Kaul also rode the entire day that day, a rare feat that hardly anyone can claim, even the most veteran of riders.

~ Trish Nelson is expected to return to editing Blog for Iowa on Sept. 3

Poweshiek County Courthouse – Second Oldest in Iowa. Photo by Trish Nelson

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