John Karras and Donald Kaul went on a now-famous bike ride in August of 1973.

It was an excursion that would bring Iowans together tolaunch the world's biggest bicycling event: the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, best known as RAGBRAI.

Forty-seven years later, the two longtime newspapermen — Kaul was a columnist, Karras a features writer —were memorialized with a statue at Water Work Park in Des Moines. Installation was completed Thursday (July 16, 2020).

Carl Voss, a former Register photographer who covered the first ride and rode one day,was among those who advocated for the statue to honor the late Kaul and 90-year-old Karras with a sculpture.

"This is everything. I don't know if I can talk about it without choking up," Voss said as he held back tears. "It's well-deserved recognition for what they brought to Iowa."

Colorado artist Gail Folwell designed the sculpture, located near the Lauridsen Amphitheater.

Hundreds of donors, including RAGBRAI and the Des Moines Register, contributed to the $200,000 project constructed of bronze and aluminum. It features abstract 6-foot-6-inch renderings of the two men alongside long, 50-foot strips that represent the rolling hills of Iowa. Dozens of circular rings represent bicycle rims.

Statues of Kaul and Karras were made out of bronze that started with clay. Then came the aluminum that was bent to create the hills and wheels of the sculpture.


Karras's conversations with Folwell about the hills of Iowa influenced the design of the project. He had an idea of what the final product would look like after seeing drawings of the sculpture and his statue at the Iowa Bike Expo at the Iowa Event Center in January of 2020.

"I think they're great,"Karras said in January."I'm pleased and honored this is being done, very much so."

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