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John Karras, RAGBRAI co-founder and columnist, dies at 91

"We will, as we do every year, honor him on this year’s ride and save him a seat on the Karras Loop,” RAGBRAI said in a statement Wednesday.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Former feature writer and co-founder of the RAGBRAI John Karras has died, according to The Des Moines Register. He was 91. 

The Register reports that a family friend confirmed his death is a result of complications from a hard fall and a minor stroke in recent months.

Karras and fellow Register columnist Donald Kaul began the cycling tradition, and challenge, in August of 1973. RAGBRAI's website says Karras suggested to Kaul that he ride his bike across the state and write columns about what he saw.

RAGBRAI notes that Kaul lived in Washington, D.C. at the time, working for The Register's Washington Bureau. Kaul liked Karras' idea and challenged him to ride along. 

As they say, the rest is history.

RAGBRAI sent Local 5 the following statement on the passing of its co-founder: 

“We are heartbroken by the passing of John Karras. His legacy has made an immeasurable impact on the state of Iowa, cycling, and thousands of riders from across the world. We will, as we do every year, honor him on this year’s ride and save him a seat on the Karras Loop.”  

On social media, RAGBRAI also posted a quote from Karras about what he and Kaul discovered about cycling across the state:

"I never thought of it as getting away. It was more like getting into something that was really a lot of fun. You drive around Iowa, and it doesn’t — it’s not very impressive in a car. 

"And one of the things that Don and I found bicycling: When you bicycle through Iowa, it was stunning. Incredible. You approach a river valley — there a lot of river valleys in Iowa — and it’s full of mist, and it’s morning, and just glorious, beautiful."

WATCH | Checking in with Jackie, who is riding the first 3 days of RAGBRAI 2021

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