Last year, Yawpers frontman Nate Cook biked 700 miles from Denver to Tulsa to benefit the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, spending about seven hours a day on his bicycle over ten days. Some days it was a little less, like when he broke down in Kansas, twenty miles from the nearest road with a dead cell phone and no water.
Since he’d been wearing cycling shoes that clip to his pedals, he had to walk barefoot for twenty miles to the nearest road and flag a car. On that ride, Cook also ran into some Wichita rednecks who didn’t like how tight his Lycra was, and he caught COVID-19.
“It was a real treat,” Cook says. “Honestly, it was actually a pretty fun time, and we raised a shitload of money. So it was good.”
Cook raised $17,000 for Sweet Relief, whom he’s teaming up with again for another ride — this one dubbed Go West, Aging Man, a nod to the well-known quote attributed to newspaper man Horace Greeley: “Go west, young man, and grow up with the country.” This time around, the ride will be 3,600 miles, from New York to Los Angeles. It will take Cook two months, starting on July 4.
While Cook has been working twelve-hour days at Dirt Bar, an analog studio that opened last year, he’s still been able to find time to train for the upcoming ride as well as an Ironman competition near the end of June.
He's in better shape than he was last year, has a better road bike and has updated his gear so that it’s more versatile for rides, but he adds that there’s only so much mitigation he can do.
“I think it's just kind of a dangerous pursuit, and I'm just coming to terms with that,” Cook says. “I would definitely be prepared this year for a Denver to Tulsa ride, but I’m definitely just not prepared for that longer stretch. And I'm particularly worried about the stretch between Phoenix and Los Angeles, being in late August, going across Death Valley. So there are concerns. But I think that if it wasn't dangerous or potentially harmful to me, I probably wouldn't do it.”
“I think the fact that I didn't fail or die is maybe part of what's interesting, and also the one thing that gives me peace despite this being pretty publicized and having sponsors," he says. "I really hate failing publicly, but if I do fail, I have a feeling it would actually drive donations more. If I get hit by a car, I have a feeling that Sweet Relief is going to be flooded with donations.”
Cook says he’s going to try to average 75 miles a day over the course of two months, taking one day off a week.
“My knees started to give out last year and stuff like that, and that was after ten days,” Cook says. “So I'm curious [to see] what's going to happen over sixty days.”
While Cook might be afraid of his knees giving out, he says the part he’s afraid of the most is playing solo shows along the way in Chicago, Tulsa, Fort Worth, Austin and Los Angeles. Cook also plays a pre-ride duo show with Yawpers guitarist Jesse Parmet at HQ on Saturday, June 19.
“I've spent so many years leaning on better musicians than myself that I have become even more primitive than I was when I was 22 years old when you put an instrument in my hand,” Cook says. “And also, there’s a security in playing with a group that you've been with for years. When it's just you, and you're solely responsible for entertaining a group of people that paid a lot of money to see you, it's kind of a terrifying prospect.”
For more information and to donate to Cook's ride, visit the Go West, Aging Man website.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Jesse Parmet's name. We regret the error.
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