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RAGBRAI, the world's largest annual recreational bicycle tour, hits a major milestone this year with its 50th ride across Iowa.

It got its start in the summer of 1973 when Des Moines Register columnists John Karras and Don Kaul teamed up to bike across the state and write about their experiences along the way. They laid out a route that began in Sioux City and ended in Davenport — with overnight stops in Storm Lake, Fort Dodge, Ames, Des Moines and Williamsburg — invited some friends to join and advertised the ride to Register readers before setting out. Ultimately, around 300 people started the ride, with up to 500 riding the stretch from Ames to Des Moines.

That first ride was informally known as the Great Six-Day Bicycle Ride. An estimated 2,700 people starting the route in the second year, when it was known as the Second Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. By the third year, it had become the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.

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