Doyce Cooke arrived in College Station Friday morning, after riding his bicycle almost 700 miles from Pensacola Florida.
Cooke’s trek took him three weeks and three days to complete, which he started as a way to raise money for the A&M band and to bring his classmates of 1962 back together.
Cooke – who didn’t want to reveal his exact age but did say he’s not quite 70 with a slight smirk – said he wanted to stop many times along the ride, but that the Aggie spirit helped him to keep going.
“The best part of the day was when I’d pull into the campsite or motel, or even the house that some Aggie friend let me stay at. And along the days, there were times when I’d think ‘man this is tough’. But you just keep on. And that’s what we’ve always done. Keep on keeping on,” Cooke said.
Cooke said he would consider doing the ride again, but not until he gets some much needed rest.
Below is the official release from Texas A&M:
Doyce Cooke began his ride from Pensacola on Monday, Apr. 6. The idea started out as a way to raise funds for the Aggie Band and additionally become a quest that involved the heart of the Aggie Spirit along the way.
“I just really enjoy riding my bicycle, especially longer distances,” says Cooke. “In early March, the idea came to me to combine my interest in cycling to raise funds for the Aggie Band—something that has been and always will be very dear to me.”
Cooke sent out emails to his classmates and quickly garnered support. Says Dennis Meadows ’62 of Bryan, “For many of us—former members of the Aggie Band and others from our class—even after nearly 47 years since graduation, still talk weekly, sometimes daily. We’ve kept that bond since our days at A&M. We were just amazed that Doyce wanted to take this on. It’s a perfect example of the perseverance and dedication we learned as members of the Aggie Band and the Corps of Cadets.”
However, his classmates weren’t just willing to pony up the donations for the ride, they quickly put the word out to the Aggie Network that Cooke would soon be on his way. “Doyce has been traveling for 23 days, faced adverse weather conditions and taken a few rest days here and there, said Donovan Kirkpatrick ’62, of College Station, “but his determination was certainly helped out by the Aggie Network. We got the word out to Aggies along the route to offer a home or a helping hand along the way if they could and I’ll tell you, they didn’t disappoint. Aggies are always willing to reinforce other Aggies. It’s wonderful.”
Cooke made his ride from Florida to Texas with many stops along the way including Big Lagoon State Park, a day on Dauphin Island, Alabama and another in Grand Bay, Alabama. He next moved onto Vancleave, Perkinston and Poplarville, Mississippi where, in the latter, he stayed with an Aggie connection—Dr. James Spiers ’69 for two evenings.
Logging anywhere from 20 – 60 miles a day, Cooke alternated stays at state parks and campgrounds, hotels, personal homes and even a barn. Every few days there were breaks to rest or wait out heavy winds and rains.
He next moved through Franklinton, Jackson, New Roads, St. Francisville and eventually Innis, Louisiana. While in New Roads, Dr. Anthony Grezaffi ’58 not only offered his barn for Cooke to take refuge, but included him in a family crab and crawfish boil.
Aggie hospitality kept up its pace when he arrived in Simmesport, Louisiana. Dr. Henry Moreau ’73 offered him a hot meal and place to stay as did Larry Crocker ’66 of DeRidder, Louisiana, who had initially planned to have Cooke stay in his home, paid for his hotel room when unexpected house guests showed up on his doorstep.
By Thursday, Apr. 23, Cooke was ready for his interstate crossing from Louisiana into Texas, arriving first in Kirbyville, Texas. When he made it to Silsbee, Texas, Cooke again connected with an Aggie and band classmate, Ed Hendrix ’62. With final stops in Shepherd, New Waverly, Richards, Texas, Cooke is on his way to the final destination—College Station.
“The Class of ’62 is very excited about what Doyce Cooke has done,” explains Kirkpatrick, “He lit a fire under us to give back to Texas A&M and the Aggie Band. With all the donations we have received in honor of this ride, we plan to do just that. The generosity of our classmates is still pouring in and I hope this fire stays lit for a long time to come, not just for us, but all Aggies.”
For those who wish to make a special donation for Cooke’s charity ride or a general donation to the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band, please contact the Texas Aggie Band Association at 979-260-5073 locally, toll-free at 800-659-6841 or http://www.tabaonline.com/.