Notes from Dr. Sam

Notes From Dr. Sam

Good Day,

I hope this note finds you well.

Many of you know that Ms. Annette and I are in the middle of a series of bicycle rides that will complete the circumference of the United States. We began with a ride from San Diego, California to St. Augustine, Florida in the spring of 2017. In 2020, we did the East Coast from St. Augustine to Bar Harbor, Maine. 

In September of this last year (2023) we rode from Bellingham, Washington (on the Washington/Canada border) to San Diego. Next fall we will begin the northern tier of states, starting again in Bellingham and going to eastern Minnesota. The following year, we will complete the northern tier of states ending in Bar Harbor, Maine.

We are part of a group of 8-10 riders from Arkansas and Oklahoma. We travel with a van and trailer that carries all of our gear, extra bikes, and supplies. In the parlance of long-distance riding this is called a SAG (Support and Gear) wagon.  We rotate driving duty: If there are eight of us riding, then every eighth day, you drive the SAG wagon. 

We generally get started about 8:00 AM and get off the road by about 3:00 PM, averaging around 50 miles daily. We use maps created by a group called Adventure Cycling, out of Montana. They tend to take us through smaller towns with quieter, well-surfaced roads. Our riders are in their seventh to eighth decades of life and we do not ride fast. We very seldom ride as a group, so a large part of the routes we ride alone. 

Our most recent ride along the Pacific Coast was beautiful. We rode for 5 1/2 weeks, most often following Highway 1 and 101. In the 36 days of riding, we climbed 20 miles of elevation gain (with screaming descents on the other side). 

The contrast of the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean, the wind, the incessant waves, and the abrupt mountains that rise up out of the sea formed the background for my thoughts. The food along the coast of Washington, Oregon, and northern California was wonderful. I started the day with a substantial breakfast: scrambled eggs with cheese, hashbrowns, and wheat toast. During the ride, we stopped every hour or so and snacked; my preference was Peanut Butter CLIF Bars and Cheetos. 

Lunch most often was a big, thick cheeseburger with fries or a crab/oyster/shrimp Po’boy sandwich. In the evening, fresh seafood was the rule: clam chowder, cioppino (fish stew), oysters-on-the-half-shell, crab cakes, salmon, or cod. We ate well!

My good friend, Lynn Davis, once told me that whitewater canoeing was an excellent way of “blowing off the stink”: cleansing our minds, bodies, and souls. She was right about that, and I would carry it a step further because it’s also true about long-distance biking. Our adventures on the back of a bicycle are a wonderful way of clearing the mind and getting back to basics, physically, mentally, and spiritually. 

Have a good journey,


Dr. Sam Taggart is a retired doctor/writer/marathon runner who practiced in Benton for 45 years. He recently released For Every Family, A Family Doctor: a history of the modern Family Medicine Movement in Arkansas. His other books include Country Doctors of Arkansas, The Public’s Health, With a Heavy Heart and We All Hear Voices.