DES MOINES, Iowa – According to close friends, the co-founder of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, better known as RAGBRAI, died on Wednesday morning.
John Karras was raised in Cleveland, but he later moved to Iowa, settling down with his family.
While Karras lived in Iowa, he was the copy editor for The Des Moines Register, where he met RAGBRAI co-founder Donald Kahl.
“The truth is they decided to do this [because] they could get some fun stories [and] b, they might get the Register to pay their expenses. And so that’s how it started,” said former Des Moines Register columnist and longtime friend Chuck Offenburger.
The first RAGBRAI event happened in 1973. Since then, it has inspired tourists, influenced Iowa’s bicycle culture, and has become a staple.
While Karras was not from Iowa, he enjoyed it.
“He was very much an East Coast-oriented kind of person when he first came to Iowa,” said Offenburger.
“And here we are honoring him as one of the most notable Iowans who ever lived. He really embraced life in this state.”