Cyclists from Maryville College visit Buchanan

By Aila Boyd

Ten cyclists from Maryville College, a Presbyterian affiliated liberal arts college in Tennessee, made their way through Buchanan over the weekend as part of the college’s “Bicentennial Bike Trip,” which followed the trail that the Rev. Isaac Anderson, founder of Maryville College, made in 1801.

The 330-mile trip started in Rockbridge County and will end this Friday in Knox County, Tenn. The journey started last Friday when cyclists, who are current students and alumni, drove from the college to their starting point in Fairfield.

Anderson made the journey with his extended family when he was 21 years old in what was a caravan of cattle and wagons. At the time of his arrival, the state of Tennessee was only five years old. Later, in 1819, he founded Maryville College.

The cyclists arrived in Buchanan last Saturday and departed the following morning. During their stay, they were hosted by Buchanan Presbyterian Church and were even treated to a showing at the historic Buchanan Theatre.

Emily Guillaume, a graduate of Maryville, noted that before the trip, the college didn’t have a relationship with Buchanan Presbyterian. She said that once the idea for the trip started to materialize, the group started calling around to Presbyterian churches that are located in the areas that they planned to spend the night.

“It’s a good connection since we’re a Presbyterian college,” she said.

As for her impression of Buchanan, Emily said, “It’s amazing.”

To date, Emily has been on 10 different bike trips.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been to a town that was as welcoming and as hospitable as Buchanan,” she said. “I can’t speak highly enough of the place.”

Emily explained that the bike trips first started in 1985 as an alternative spring break activity for students who didn’t want to travel to beach destinations.

The original trip, Memphis, Tenn., to Maryville, Tenn., was organized by her father, Bruce Guillaume, who is a 1976 graduate of the college.

“When I came up with the idea, I was really interested in organizing an ‘active’ trip,” he said. “At the time, I had never heard the term ‘Alternative Spring Break.’ I just wanted to organize a spring break trip that involved something besides laying on a beach somewhere.”

As interests in the trips grew, more and more locations were added. Since the original trip, cyclists from Maryville College have traveled routes from Henderson, N.C., to Surf City, N.C.; Rome, Ga., to Pensacola, Fla.; Clayton, Ga., to Wilmington Island, Ga.; and Reidsville, N.C., to Kill Devil Hills, N.C.

“It was also a chance to show people— not just our students— that small towns in America are great, and they have great people,” Bruce said. “People in these small towns have fed us, put us up overnight and welcomed us with open arms. It’s a great experience.”

Dana Davidson, a 2005 graduate, agreed with Bruce, noting that “Buchanan definitely has that great small town feel to it.”

He explained that while in Buchanan, he was able to meet with local farmers and even learned about the flood of 1985.

“We were treated so wonderfully,” he said.

Although he isn’t able to go on every bike trip that the college coordinates, Davison said that he tries to sneak away as often as his work schedule allows.

Bruce added that the idea of retracing Anderson’s steps has long since been at the forefront of his mind.

“I’ve been talking about an ‘Isaac Anderson Bike Trip’ for years and jumped at the chance to finally do it during Maryville College’s bicentennial year,” he said. “I hope this year’s trip gives participants a great appreciation for the trip made by the Andersons and other pioneer families. I also want more people to know about the Maryville College name and the college’s beginnings.”

Emily, who is currently in law school in Indiana, said that she’s very fond of Virginia and was excited when this year’s trip was announced. Luckily, Maryville College’s spring break coincided with the spring break for her law school, allowing her to accompany her father on the trip.

The trip included stops in the following towns in Virginia: Fairfield, Buchanan, Shawsville, Wytheville and Abington. Towns visited in Tennessee include: Surgoinsville, Rutledge and Corryton. The two longest legs of the trip were the rides from Shawsville to Wytheville and from Abington to Surgoinsville, Tenn., both of which were 60 miles in length.

On Friday, the ride will culminate in the arrival of the cyclists at Washington Presbyterian Church in Corryton, Tenn., where Anderson started serving as the church’s first minister in 1802.

This trip was organized by Mountain Challenge, LLC., an award-winning fitness and outdoor company that is based on the campus of Maryville College.

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