Like the best tours, my story is full of highs and lows. It’s about peaks and valleys and how our greatest and worst moments tend to collide. The seeds of the Tour de Farm began in such a way.
Within 12 hours, I had received the best and worst news. A routine dermatology appointment turned long day in the emergency room where scans revealed a coconut-sized tumor in my side. My heart screeched to a halt when I heard “tumor”. Several years earlier, losing my father had started in a similar way, with the very same word.
On the way home from the ER, I got a call. “There’s an envelope here. It’s from Oxford.” The last few weeks had been filled with nervous anticipation as I started receiving application decisions from the graduate schools. I was shocked and thrilled to be accepted to Yale, Harvard, and Cambridge, but for some reason I couldn’t get the idea of Oxford out my head. Like a lovesick puppy, I checked the mail obsessively.
But as discussions of a biopsy procedure began, I knew I would be waiting for results of a different kind–results that could make all of my hard work and plans irrelevant. When I finally got up the courage to open the envelope, I quickly searched for key words and found them, “pleased to inform you…congratulations!!” My eyes filled with tears of both joy and fear. I was only 23 years old.
The tumor was removed, taking my right oblique muscles with it, and the pathology results seemed to promise that it should be gone for good. I was able to accept the offer and move to Oxford. It was there that I fell in love with cycling.
However, my health struggles were not quite over. The mesh that they used to replace my muscles had developed an infection and the doctors had found yet another development of melanoma. After several days of receiving the most potent antibiotics available intravenously, the infection still did not seem to be responding, so I went into surgery.
Recovery was excruciating, there seemed to be no end in sight, I knew that soon another surgery awaited me. It was in that moment, with tubes coming out of my side and a picc-line in my arm that two things came into focus:
1) I would have to be exceptionally vigilant in my pursuit of health.
2) Life is undeniably fragile, so it should lived to its fullest…right now.
I had dreamed about cycling through the south of France and working on organic farms, but now I was determined. I want to grab my health and my life firmly with both hands, and to inspire others to do the same. The Tour de Farm is an expression of this resolve.
When my dad was diagnosed, doctors gave him just a few months to live and unpromising treatment options. However, thanks to some radical, healthy changes in lifestyle my dad lived an incredible two and a half years beyond expectations. My father was a walking testament to the value of organic food, an active lifestyle and creating opportunities to live life to its fullest. These are the same values I will promote through the Tour de Farm. I believe that health is more than just the absence of cancer or sickness, and living is more than just preventing death. I believe that health is a way of life that can be cultivated. The mission of the Tour de Farm is to spread ideas that promote healthy,vibrant and sustainable living.
In the spirit of Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France, the Tour de Farm will be a 52-day cycling tour through France, stopping at organic farms along the way to volunteer, to learn about sustainable living and organic food, and to share these ideas with others. I will be joined by my sister-in-law, Tiffany, as a cycling partner and production assistant.
While the 2012 Tour de France makes its way down the east side of France, we will be pedaling and farming our way across the south. The tour will commence in Nice and continue via ferry to Corsica, then on through Marseilles to Nimes, and down toward Foix. After traversing the infamous Raid Pyrénéen, we will continue up to Bordeaux before making our way to the finish line on the final day of the Tour de France in Paris. Since the location and quality of the ride will guide our route more than distance efficiency, just like competitors in the Tour de France, we will occasionally board our bikes on a train (or ferry) to get to the next great ride.
At five stages throughout the journey we will trade our cycling gloves for work gloves, volunteering at organic farms along the way as a part of the WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) Network. At the farms, we will be busy helping to tend gardens, orchards and animals, but we hope to cultivate more than fruits and vegetables. We also hope to cultivate greater familiarity with where our food comes from, awareness of what it means to live sustainably in terms of both our food and transportation, and practical ways to adapt these principles to our daily lives.
Though we will have to pack light, we will be sure to make room for the electronic equipment necessary to stay connected through blogging and tweeting, and the photo/video equipment necessary to capture and share the stories as beautifully and effectively as possible.
Patricia Andrews is a freelance multimedia producer who specializes in telling stories through writing, photography, video and audio. Patricia began shooting professionally as a photographer while an undergraduate at the University of Georgia and interned with Turner Broadcasting Inc. After she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a bachelor’s degree in the study of religions, Patricia became a fellow at Time Inc. In between surgeries, Patricia earned her master’s degree from the University of Oxford in England, and has traveled in over 20 countries. Today, Patricia is cancer-free and plans to keep it that way. Her work can be found at patriciaandrewsmedia.com.
Tiffany Andrews is an author, blogger and teacher. Her book, Sincerely, The Teacher, shares insights that teachers from across the nation wish to share with parents. Tiffany was interviewed on CNN for her ideas on educational reform and continues to encourage and inform a large audience through her blog, sincerelytheteacher.com. One major theme in her book and in her blogs is health and nutrition. Tiffany is passionate about promoting a healthier and more active lifestyle to our future generations. Tiffany enjoys outdoor sports such as snowboarding and wakeboarding with her husband, Chase, who runs the talented Atlanta production group, Remedy Films.
//// Girl Bike Love is proud to support the Tour de Farm. As Patricia and Tiffany make their way through France, pedaling and gardening we will bring you their stories and updates. We can’t wait to hear all of the beautiful tales and epic struggles that will inevitably come from this amazing journey. Thanks to Surly, these ladies are well equipped and ready to roll but they could use your support to make a real impact. Check out the kickstarter here and come back often, as photos and stories happen our way, we promise to share. ////
Posted by Sarai Snyder – Boulder, CO