At first glance, it merely looks like a slightly worn, outdated map of Eden Prairie. But to Barb Overline, who hand-highlighted each of the roads, this map represents a goal achieved, a new appreciation for her city, and the beginning of a new phase of life for her.
Last summer, Overline’s son Daniel was preparing to leave for college in Missouri. To cope with this big change, she began biking regularly as a way to “focus on something besides the empty nest coming up,” she said. “Then I ran into this 10-year-old map in a drawer and thought, ‘What would happen if I just biked every road?’ I had thought about doing something like that in the past, but I didn’t know how to organize it or figure out how to do it. But then when I ran across the map, I thought, ‘this is how I’m going to do it.’”
Using the app Komoot, Overline mapped out her chosen roads before a ride, then highlighted each completed one on the map after each ride.
She began by riding sections near her home in southeast Eden Prairie, starting south of Pioneer Trail and working her way north. After encountering a few dicey gravel roads, Overline slightly amended her goal to include paved roads only, and she only rode alongside freeways if there was a path.
“Some roads were kind of scary — Flying Cloud, for example — there are a couple sections without sidewalks, so I rode those early on a Sunday morning,” she said. She also discovered firsthand how much the city has grown in 10 years and found herself drawing in new roads that weren’t on her map.
Using an e-bike made the goal more achievable but not necessarily easier.
“Eden Prairie is super hilly, so when I got my e-bike, it really opened me up to this. I don’t think I could have done a goal like this without one,” she said.
However, she did not allow the e-bike to do all the work for her. On roads she had ridden multiple times near her neighborhood, she allowed a faster setting on the e-bike.
But, she said, “If I hadn’t been on a road before, I would go as fast as my own legs would take me, and I wouldn’t just power through with the bike.”
It took Overline approximately four months to complete her goal.
“There are 260 paved miles in Eden Prairie, but I ended up riding a total of 770 miles,” she said.
With the exception of a couple of weeks on vacation, Overline biked anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours a day and averaged about 15 miles per ride, but distances varied widely depending on where she was on the map and the time available. Early on, she had the luxury of skipping a day for poor weather, but as the days got shorter and colder, she found herself riding in almost any weather in order to complete the goal before winter.
The goal required some strategic planning to avoid wasting valuable time and energy re-riding roads. As she ventured further from her home, she hauled her bike to distant locations and rode from there. On those days, she would make sure to take her map along in her car to double-check it.
“The worst feeling was getting all the way home and seeing I had missed a cul-de-sac. And Eden Prairie has a lot of cul-de-sacs,” she laughed. “A lot.”
A resident of Eden Prairie since 1994, Overline discovered much to admire about the city during her rides, including its people, neighborhoods, and excellent cycling infrastructure.
“Eden Prairie is amazing for their bike paths and sidewalks,” she said. “I could ride almost anywhere, even the busy mall area with all its traffic and still felt safe. I was really impressed with that.”
She also appreciated the diversity of people and cultures she saw in the different neighborhoods, noting the neighborliness of many areas.
“I feel like I paid more attention, noticed more, just riding up and down the streets,” she explained. “It’s easier to notice things when you’re not speeding by in a car; you take more in.”
One neighborhood she recalled had a “snake rock that went way down the sidewalk with a sign that said ‘add a rock,’ and neighborhood people would add little painted rocks.”
In general, she found the people of Eden Prairie friendly and engaging. “People were always out walking, or enjoying the fall leaves, or decorating for Halloween,” she said. “They would wave or ask about my e-bike.”
The city’s natural beauty and wildlife caused her to pause many times to take it all in and snap some photos.
“We have a lot of open spaces in Eden Prairie, and they are beautiful,” she exclaimed.
She enjoyed biking near Lake Riley, the Minnesota River, and Staring Lake, and looks forward to returning to these places for future leisure rides.
“I didn’t really know until I started doing all the biking just how much we have right in our own backyard,” she said. “I’m a big traveler, but there are places right here in Eden Prairie that I would go to see if they were in another county I was visiting.”
She plans to return and spend more time at Discovery Point in the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District. “There are a lot of little places like that that I want to come back to and see more in-depth,” she said.
No stranger to goal-setting, Overline has set and achieved many goals through the years. Though this goal was a little different, her approach was the same.
“It was just setting the goal and not getting overwhelmed,” she said. “If I just had a short time, I would just do a small amount. I would do what I could on that day, and my best was good enough.”
Ultimately, “I was doing it for my enjoyment and to find joy in the journey. I guess if it had become unenjoyable, I might have quit.”
But when rides got tougher, days got shorter, and the weather got colder, she found herself even more determined. Toward the end, “I was like, ‘Ugh, not another cul-de-sac,’” she laughed, “and at that point, it became about joy in the feeling of completion of the goal.”
A child and adolescent therapist at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Overline is a great advocate of physical exercise and its benefits for mental and emotional health, and she experienced them firsthand herself.
Widowed in 2018, Overline shared, “I was going through a lot of grief this summer with Daniel leaving home, and it brought up things as a widow also. I was just dreading him leaving, and I thought biking would be good for me, for my mental health, to just figure out what my next steps would be. So for me, it was really therapeutic to use the time for reflection.”
Though Overline mostly biked alone, her friends and family were very supportive of her quest. Her sister Deb DeJonge joined her near the end to help double-check the map to ensure she had indeed biked all the roads and to cheer her over the finish line.
Overline completed her goal in early November, just as temperatures dipped into the 30s.
“It was a bigger goal than I thought it would be when I started, but I’m really glad I did it and would definitely do it again,” she said. “It was really therapeutic for me physically and mentally, and it was great to learn more about my city.”
What’s next on her goal list? “Maybe next year it will be the paths,” Overline answered. “We have a great system here.”
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