By John Karras, RAGBRAI Co-Founder
As the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa looms in the near distance, two notions and a question scurry about in my mind.
The question, of course, is whether I’ll finally get my legs back under me enough to get back into the fray. One of the reasons we moved back to Des Moines from Colorado in late January was that our legs no longer agreed to ski or hike at 9,000 feet. It also was becoming increasingly difficult to breathe.
Notion One — I recently realized that I am now the same age as Clarence Pickard was in 1973 when he became a one-week Iowa legend by pedaling his second-hand woman’s Schwinn, green and white, over every mile of that first year’s ride (which included, incidentally, consecutive hundred-mile and eighty-mile days). That age was, and is, 83. It gives one pause.
Notion Two — I can’t get notion one out of mind.
As for the question, it is, simply: When I get to the end of RAGBRAI week, will I be saying, “You were a better man than I am, Clarence Pickard”?
Not that there’s any competition here. After all, I’m at an age when competitiveness is ludicrous (I’m also at an age when lifetime guarantees don’t mean diddly), and Clarence, sad to say, is dead. Some competition.
And when you put all of the above into a sack, shake it up then look inside, what do you see? Why, there’s nothing there but nonsense. Sensible eighty-three-year-old guys don’t worry about such stuff (I have no idea what sensible eighty-three-year-old guys worry about, other than death).
Moving on, people often ask me about Donald Kaul, the other co-founder of RAGBRAI. Good question. He’s alive and relatively well (he’s also no longer a spring chicken) and living in Ann Arbor, MI, with wife Sue. I’ve tried calling him the last two days but he’s not answering. Eventually, he will, and I’ll get a better response for the question.
Later. Actually talked to Kaul. Like me, he’s threatening to get on his bike again this year, but probably not in Iowa, unfortunately.
Other than that, my wife, Ann, and I are luxuriating in the elegance of living at Scottish Rite Park here in Des Moines. We moved in Feb. 1 and think it’s the best decision we’ve made in at least the last 10 years. Good food, pleasant staff and lovely accommodations.
We’ve been out on our bikes a couple of times, but will have to put in a lot more miles between now and RAGBRAI week to get into any kind of form.
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