In the region in which I live the small town I live in, Lewisville, NC, is a bit of a mecca for road cyclists. Several times a week you will see large groups of cyclists meet in downtown Lewisville and depart for long rides in several different directions. The good townspeople of Lewisville are split on their feelings about the cyclists – some welcome their presence and wonder how the town can make hay out of Lewisville’s reputation within the cycling community, while others find them a nuisance as they wait for an opportunity to pass the riders on Lewisville’s two-lane country roads – but they’ve been a presence for many years and in the ten years I’ve lived here I’ve always wondered how Lewisville came to be known as a cycling hot spot. Scott Sexton’s recent column in the Winston-Salem Journal reveals how it all got started:
(Gene) Gillam was born in Iowa and grew up in Greensboro before heading to The Citadel. He became a pilot with the U.S. Army Air Force and flew B-26 bombers.
Sixty-one times he flew missions over Normandy, northern France, the Rhineland and the Ardennes. He was shot down several times, and was rescued by French families and the French Resistance — the sorts of things that awe us today but were almost routine to men of his generation…
It was through his hobbies that a lot of people got to know Gillam. He was an avid runner and, later on, became something of a pioneer within the local cycling community. That’s where Ken Putnam, the owner of Ken’s Bike Shop, first met and got to know Gillam.
“He used to live out in Lewisville, on Grapevine (Road),” Putnam said. “A group of us would meet out at his house and just go ride. That’s why all the rides now start in Lewisville, because we’d leave from Gene’s house.”
Again, that might not seem like much more than a couple of guys out indulging a hobby — until you consider what has transpired since a handful of oddballs started heading west from Gillam’s house in Lewisville each weekend in the early 1970s.
The routes plotted out by that little group eventually got written down, named and taught turn-by-turn to new groups of riders as they discovered the sport. That small group grew by twos and threes, and turned into other groups of differing interests and abilities.
These days, hundreds of riders leave from Lewisville in any given week throughout the spring, summer and fall.