Bicentennial Bike Trip follows MC founder’s route from Virginia to Tennessee

Bicentennial Bike Trip follows MC founder’s route from Virginia to Tennessee

Feb. 22, 2019

In honor of Maryville College’s Bicentennial, a group of 10 MC cyclists will spend Spring Break riding more than 300 miles from Rockbridge County, Va., to Knox County, Tenn. – the same route taken 218 years ago by the family of MC founder Rev. Isaac Anderson.

In 1801, Anderson was studying for the ministry when, at 21, he accompanied his extended family in a migration west. Forming a caravan of cattle and wagons, they crossed the mountain passes to new farmland in eastern Knox County in the five-year-old state of Tennessee.

From March 8-15, a group of Maryville College faculty, staff, alumni and friends will follow Route 11 – the route likely followed by the Anderson family when they left their home near Brownsburg, Va. The cyclists will depart from Fairfield, Va., on March 8 and ride between 25 and 65 miles per day for eight days, stopping overnight in Buchanon, Va.; Shawsville, Va.; Wytheville, Va.; Abingdon, Va.; Surgoinsville, Tenn.; and Rutledge, Tenn.

Churches and community centers have volunteered to provide overnight lodging and some meals for the cyclists.

On the final day, March 15, the group will ride from Rutledge, Tenn., to Washington Presbyterian Church in Corryton, Tenn., where Anderson was ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church in 1802 and served as Washington Presbyterian Church’s first minister. A brief ceremony and reception, which are free and open to the public, will be held at the church at 4:30 p.m. on March 15, after the cyclists arrive.

Since the late 1980s, the annual Spring Break bike trip has been organized by Mountain Challenge, LLC, an award-winning fitness and outdoor company (located on the MC campus since 1987) focused on providing high-quality, safe outdoor experiences that are “designed to change the world for the better, one person at a time.” Mountain Challenge developed a program called Fit. Green. Happy.®, which focuses on improving the fitness of the Maryville College community; getting people outdoors; contributing to environmental sustainability; and fostering happiness.

The first Spring Break bike trip was conceived and organized in 1988 by Mountain Challenge founder and MC alumnus Bruce Guillaume ’76, who led a group of cyclists across the state of Tennessee – from Memphis to Maryville.

“When I came up with the idea, I was really interested in organizing an ‘active’ trip,” Guillaume 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.”

Since then, the annual trip has taken MC students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends on various routes, including 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. Trips always include overnight stops in small towns along the way, with churches, community centers and fire stations providing lodging and food.

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

This year’s 330-mile bike trip is something Guillaume has been planning for a while.

“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 greater 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.”      


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2018 semester is 1,154.