WATERVILLE — Tom Little takes his position on the Waterville-Elysian-Morristown School Board very seriously.
So seriously, in fact, that he drove all the way home from Iowa — where he and his wife are biking across the state with thousands of others in the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa — to make the Monday night board meeting. He'll be out of town for the August meeting, Little explained, so he couldn't abandon his fellow board members twice.
“That's a significant part of it, and also I have some work stuff,” said Little, who has served on the School Board for about 10 years. “I just didn't want to miss this month's meeting and next month's.”
Little's five-hour drive home came after biking 55 miles on the first day of RAGBRAI — a seven-day ride in its 41st year, making it the oldest and longest multi-day bicycle tour in the U.S.
Little's wife, Crista Bohlmann, on the other hand, was very much “in it” Monday, as the kids say. She was in the midst of her first “century,” which in the biking world means riding 100 miles in one day. That's quite a feat, Little said, especially considering the terrain, and also the fact that the couple don't have a lot of hard-core bike rides on their resumes.
“Everybody thinks Iowa is flat, but it's far from flat in parts of the state,” said Little, who owns a screen-printing shop called One Little Shirt Shop.
The couple, who are members of the regional cover band The Blue Ringers, are a part of a 12-person team riding in RAGBRAI for a charity organization called ChildVoice. The nonprofit aims to restore the voices of children who have been silenced by war, Little said.
ChildVoice works mostly in Uganda, serving girls and their children traumatized by the Lord's Resistance Army and also crime. Little said the couple's friend has spent time in Uganda and asked them to participate in RAGBRAI to help raise funds for the cause.
Little and Bohlmann have become so passionate about the cause that they've upped the fundraising ante. The couple is hoping to raise about $1,000 by Thursday. If the goal is met by Thursday night, Bohlmann will bike all 52 miles Friday in a Wonder Woman costume and Little will ride the same distance in just a Speedo (and biking shoes and a helmet).
Biking is a passion for the couple, Little said. But this week will be a challenge.
Bohlmann, a teacher at the Mankato Suzuki School of Music, said in an email that the couple have ridden in a few days of RAGBRAI in the past but never the entire week. Bohlmann will be participating the entire week, and Little will be biking five days of the ride.
“We've only done it before when we've snuck down for one or two days,” Little said.
If all goes as planned, Bohlmann will have completed about 425 biking miles, and Little will have completed 275 miles. Little said coming home for the meeting was the right decision, but he feels like he's missing out.
“All day long today I'm wishing I was there,” he said.
To donate, visit https://www.active.com/donate/cvatragbrai/cristabohlmann.