Some years ago, when we lived in San Antonio, I was lucky enough to be introduced to a group of cyclists who called themselves the Trailblazers. It was an informal group whose great strengths were the diversity of rides and the accompanying social activities.
One of the founders was a gentleman called Lee Wheeler and it soon became apparent that not only was he a cyclist par excellence but he was older than most in the group. More on this later.
Lee was born in 1928 but did not really started riding as an adult until he moved to San Antonio in 1975 when he was already almost 50. However, he was a runner and bike rider back in his childhood. In his own words: “I spent most of my childhood in Paris, Texas. During Elementary School I had several jobs. I delivered 132 newspapers in the early morning, before school, on a bicycle I bought for $18.00 at $3.00/ month. I delivered telegrams for Western Union on my bike and also worked for Paris Drug Store delivering prescriptions to senior citizens on my bike. My Mother and Father died when I was very young and then I lived with my Grandfather. I was a wild teenager in high school and to prevent my incarceration, I was sent to live with an uncle in Dallas, who was an ordained minister. He tried, I tried...... then I joined the Navy and my life changed”.
The tattoo on his leg also tells part of Lee’s story. During his days in the US Navy, he got at least one mildly risqué tattoo on his leg. Inevitably, when he embarked on his 27-year career as a high school science teacher, he always had to wear long pants so as to not expose his young charges to the famous tattoo. That need for discretion did not apply to the Trailblazers.
But back to Lee’s cycling. Over the years, he has successfully participated in numerous Senior Games cycling and running events at both the regional, national and international levels. This has taken Lee to many competition locations not only throughout Texas but also to Louisiana, Florida, Virginia, Arkansas and Utah. Along the way (as of 8/1209), he has picked up an impressive collection of cycling medals; no less than 46 gold, 46 silver and 46 bronze. In 2018, Lee won two more golds in San Antonio (still averaging about 14 mph) which qualified him to compete in this year's nationals in Albuquerque. Now 91 years old, he placed first in everything he entered: the 10 and 5 kilometer time trials and the 20 kilometer road race.
In 2017, Lee was inducted into the Texas Senior Games Hall of Fame, a fitting tribute to this quite remarkable man, one who I am so proud to call a friend.