Danell Lynn saved money for two years, sold off what she owned, let the lease run out on her Phoenix apartment and on the first day of her year-long motorcycle trip, she ran into her first hiccup before she left the driveway.
On the morning of Sept. 19, 2014, with her remaining possessions strapped to a 2006 Triumph Bonneville named “Amelia,” Lynn fiddled with her SPOT tracker, which wouldn’t connect to the satellite. That was more than an inconvenience.
One of the goals of her ride around the United States was to break the Guinness World Record for the longest continuous motorcycle journey in one country, so the SPOT was an important accessory to document her trip. After a delay of two and a half hours and a call to tech support, she rode 130 miles to Tucson and made her first gas stop. Lynn exited the station and traveled a mile before she realized that she’d left behind her backpack, which contained her wallet, camera, computer and, yes, the SPOT tracker.
If Danell Lynn had viewed the two incidents as ominous signs, then her trip may have ended the day it started. But Lynn sees the opportunities that can arise from mistakes and failures. When people along the way asked her why she was spending one year on the road she replied, “Why not?” The deciding factor on taking the trip was when she knew that “yes” was the answer to the question, “Would I regret not doing this?”
This weekend, Lynn’s ride, titled “Black Tie 2 Black Top — 1 woman, 1 bike, 1 year, which took her through all 50 states and Canada primarily via secondary roads, came to an end. With more than 52,000 miles logged in the 365 days, Lynn will most certainly break the record, which currently stands at 23,760 miles, set by Manigandan Manjunathan of India. Lynn still has a mountain of paperwork and data to submit to Guinness and the entire mileage won’t be counted, since the GWR rules state that the motorcycle can’t be transported via boat, plane, etc. and can’t enter another country, which is why Lynn saved Alaska and Hawaii for the end.
The world record is only a small piece of Lynn’s trip and it wasn’t her goal to log as many miles as possible. If anything, the ride was a chance to rest, explore and, for the second time in her life, visit all 50 states.
Lynn was raised in a traveling family. Her father was in the Air Force and Lynn, her mom and two older siblings lived in Europe for several years, starting when Lynn was in the sixth grade. At 19, she had been to every U.S. state. Now in her early 30s and a self-described serial entrepreneur, Lynn is an author, fashion designer, humanitarian, philanthropist and traveler. In June, she put the trip on hold for nine days while she traveled to Cambodia to distribute quilts on behalf of her foundation, Threading Hope.
“I have learned that it is okay to take in rest, a break is needed and it is okay to slow down,” she said in a blog post in May. “I am blessed to have a trip like this be my teacher and the life lessons are vast and continue to teach me! Eight months in and I am more open, more calm, and more clear on what holds importance to me!”
Armed with a paper map, a “dumb phone” and a camera with a selfie stick, Lynn wandered America without a rigid agenda. A decal at the top of her windshield says “Lost for a Reason.” She kissed manatees, learned to play the harmonica, knitted hats for the homeless, hiked in Death Valley and created a route sheet that looks like curlicues drawn by a toddler. In New Mexico, she discovered that motorcycle tires get no traction on ice, her one crash. She lingered in Florida for a month and then spent the winter of 2015 timing the arrival of Arctic blasts. When the campgrounds were full, she was taken in by strangers.
When Lynn began the trip, she had only been riding for four years. Her first bike was a 1981 Yamaha Virago. “I come from a family of riders, so teachers were all around me,” she said via e-mail from Hawaii. With Bear Grylls-style camera work, Lynn documented each month of the ride in short YouTube videos, including the slow-speed crash on ice. Other stats include two bike dumps from a standstill, two blown rear tires, 11 tire changes and zero speeding tickets. She paid as much as $5.98 for gas (Death Valley, Calif.), as little as $1.74 (Soso, Miss.), and rode in temperatures ranging from 102 degrees to the low 20s.
A year after her departure, Lynn arrived in Washington state on a ferry from Alaska, where she will visit her brother and celebrate the end of her journey and meeting her goal. Since one of her biggest fears in life is working a typical nine-to-five job, she isn’t too concerned about the sudden change in routine she's about to experience. As she sifts through the journals from her trip and prepares to write a book, she won’t have to stay ahead of the weather, find a campsite or try to get that SPOT tracker to connect to the internet.
At least not until the next trip. Which is always on the mind of any motorcyclist.