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Iowa History Daily: August 26 - 1st RAGBRAI Rolls

Iowa History Daily: On August 26, 1973, rubber hit the road as the first ever RAGBRAI (then ‘The Great Six-Day Bicycle Ride) got underway in Sioux City. Founded by the Des Moines Register’s John Karras and Don Kaul, the annual ride across Iowa continues to offer an opportunity for Iowans to cross the state on bicycles each year.

Karras and Kaul started with a simple idea: create a column chronicling a bicycle ride across Iowa. With a rough route laid out and an invitation to the public printed in the newspaper, the first route started at Sioux City, before overnight stops in Storm Lake, Fort Dodge, Ames, Des Moines, and Williamsburg before terminating at the Mississippi River in Davenport.

Roughly 300 people started out from Sioux City, although only 114 officially crossed the state during the first year. Ridership topped out around 500 riders while Karras and Kaul trekked the stretch from Ames to Des Moines. The longest day featured an 110-mile jaunt from Des Moines to Williamsburg, and the weather also topped the century mark on that day.

With a positive public response to the columns, planning started for the Second Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (SAGBRAI). Moved earlier in the calendar to avoid conflict with the Iowa State Fair and the start of school, the event official started using the moniker RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) in 1975. In 2023 the popular event celebrated the 50th anniversary of Karras and Kaul’s inaugural ride. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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