I hope this note finds you well.
This spring, Ms. Annette and I had one of those exceptional adventures that she tends to plan. We spent the months of May and June riding bicycles in the countryside of England, Scotland, and the Netherlands. In thirty days, we rode about 900 miles in the rural United Kingdom and in North Holland.
We left London on the 23rd of May and made our way up the east coast of England, going through a number of small towns over a 2½ week period. We spent most of our time in small villages and open farmland well away from the typical tourist spots. Most days we spent riding on small one-lane country roads lined with hedges, with almost no traffic.
The closer we got to Scotland, the hillier it got. For much of the second half of that part of the ride we were climbing 2,000–2,500 feet per day, and by the time we arrived at our night resting place we were exhausted. In many of the small towns, we stayed in quaint hotels with a pub just next door. On several occasions, the pub was the only place to eat in the village. Our final stop on this part of the journey was Edinburgh in southern Scotland.
For the second half of our adventure we caught a plane to Amsterdam, where we joined a second group of friends, most of whom are cyclists from Oklahoma. After catching our breath in Amsterdam for a day or two, we boarded a barge called the Elodie and then spent ten days tooling around North Holland. For all that time, the Elodie was our nighttime home.
Each morning we had a hearty breakfast aboard, and then set out for days of guided bike riding. What Holland lacked in hills it made up for in strong headwinds. As in England, nearly all our time was spent in the country. It is absolutely amazing what these people can do with water. As the son of a rice farmer, I can tell you that any east Arkansas rice farmer would be jealous of what these people can do with water and how they have been able to reclaim large patches of land from the sea.
We were in the land of windmills, from the ancient, quaint windmills of history to the massive, sleek, ultramodern power generators. In whatever form, windmills have been part of the landscape and lifeblood of this country, harnessing the winds that dominate this land.
One of my favorite parts of travel is the time spent in reflection when I return home: incorporating the sense memories that are fresh on my mind: the sunlight, the foods, the flavors, the poetry, the music, and the language. You don’t really know a people until you have eaten their food, laughed at their jokes, and danced to their music.
If you get a chance, visit the countryside of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. You’ll love it.
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.