Terry Stille has accomplished a feat that few, if any, others can lay claim to: he’s biked every public road in Washington County. And yes, that means all of them.
“Every cul de sac, every dead end, every road,” Stille said. “Anywhere that didn’t have a sign that said ‘no trespassing’ or ‘private road’ … and, of course, not the interstates; it’s not legal to bike on those.” All the other ones, though, have been checked off his list in a five-and-a-half-year series of bike rides that took him through 31 cities and townships and totaled 7,000 miles.
Stille, 57, is an avid cyclist. (one would have to be to undertake a project like this), but he hasn’t always been. After a total hip replacement in 2004 made his normal forms of exercise difficult, he took up cycling instead.
“I had to give up volleyball. I had to give up running, so I just started biking as physical therapy,” Stille explained. “I just started going farther and farther; I started off with riding one or two miles, then gradually added more and more.”
Stille and his wife, Mary, moved to Woodbury in 2013. He said that he “quickly fell in love” with the scenic views that cycling throughout Washington County’s southern portion afforded him.
“I started doing a lot of riding around in Woodbury and Afton, then moved onto the whole St. Croix River and just loved it. I kept going further north, just exploring,” Stille said. “That quickly grew into a personal challenge to ride my bike on every single highway, county road and public street Washington County.”
Runners and cyclists throughout the country have undertaken similar quests; the Every Single Street project challenges people to explore their cities by running or biking all roads in them and encourages them to post snapshots of their journeys on social media using the hashtag #everysinglestreet.
Stille said that as far as he knows, he’s the only person to take the challenge from the city to the county level. It was an unusual goal, he admitted, but its uniqueness was precisely its appeal. “I was trying to do something nobody else had done before,” he said.
And, once he got the idea, he had a hard time turning back.
“Washington County is 40 miles by 15 miles, so the total is 423 square miles. The reason I remember that so well is that my birthday is April 23,” he said. “I thought, ‘It’s kind of an omen; I’ve got to do this.”
Stille began his quest in the spring of 2014 and finished on Sept. 20 of this year. His last ride was a short one: about a mile through Forest Lake, west on Broadway Avenue, then north on Lyons Street to reach the county’s northwest corner. When he reached the Washington County sign, he laid his cell phone in the grass, set the camera’s self-timer, lifted his road bike above his head and posed for a selfie.
Stille doesn’t necessarily recommend others undertake a series of county-wide bike rides—“it’s really kind of silly,” he said—but he does encourage others to explore the beauty of Washington County, particularly by bike.
“One thing with biking that you don’t get with driving (is) all your senses—things you smell, things you hear, things you see—let you really get to appreciate the land a lot more,” he said. “Cycling is just so peaceful to me … I get a lot of thinking done. My ‘cycle therapy’ is what I call it.”