Our Monday Motivation series on GuinnessWorldRecords.com profiles the inspiring stories of commitment, courage and dedication behind some of our most extraordinary titles. This week we're placing the spotlight on a young woman who ventured through all fifty states of the USA by motorcycle, to inspire others to lead a life of travel and wanderlust.
Danell Lynn rode her first motorcycle before she was born.
Her parents both shared a love of riding, often going on trips together while strapped to the back of their latest bike.
Though her mother was pregnant, it didn’t stop the pair from taking on the open road - her dad was the Biker, mom riding pillion, and Danell tagging along in utero.
It wasn’t until much later in life that she would see she had the same passion as her family for taking on the interstate.
Cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and siblings all partook in the biker lifestyle; it was almost inevitable for Danell’s fate to include anything else but riding motorcycles.
Growing up her family strongly believed in travel and the power of exploration, which came hand in hand with enthusiasm for motorcycles.
As a child Danell and her family went on trips to national parks, visited all fifty states in the US, and even expanded their horizons to Europe, where they moved for her father’s military career.
“My father was in the Air Force- he joined when I was about one or two years old, so my entire life was moving every two and a half years. I spent part of my youth growing up in England and traveling through lots of Europe, but even as a child in the US we journeyed every summer break. I made a promise to myself when I was 25 that I would travel outside my home country at least 1 time per year and experience other countries and cultures annually.”
Motivated by her family’s sense of adventure, Danell succeeded her promise by travelling to even more nations around the world as an adult, this time by motorcycle.
“There is something to be said for the openness of a motorcycle. Not just to nature but society in general. When you remove the windows and doors you experience the journey at an entirely new level.”
Determining she would follow in her family’s footsteps, Danell purchased a 1982 Virago for $1,200 to hone her skills as a rider.
This would take work, and quite a few drops (falls). According to advice given from her bike-oriented uncles, aunts, grandparents, and brothers: even after 50,000 miles, a spill could happen, and this was her first time getting into the riding lifestyle.
Nonetheless, Danell had the background and the genes to thrive through the challenges motorcycles presented, and practiced until she was joyriding on solo missions through Costa Rica, Cuba, and parts of the USA.
“Travel has been a part of my soul for as long as I can remember, the euphoria it exerts is unlike any other. The moment I return home I am ready for my next fix! This statement I feel describes me at my core.”
The freeing sensation of being on the open highway lead Danell to realize she needed something to elevate her experience with riding motorcycles; it wasn’t enough that she was passionate about seeing places she had never been to before, it was about a higher purpose, something she could use to inspire herself and others.
So she quickly came up with an idea to make her dream an unforgettable adventure.
“Two years pre-departure I decided to start saving for an extended adventure - a year on a motorcycle in my home country. I had been to all 50 states as a child and teen and wanted to re-experience this in my 30's and on a motorcycle,” said Danell, “Thus I wrote my family to let them know in 24 months I would put all my stuff in storage and head out to experience the back roads and scenic routes of the US and Canada on a Triumph Bonneville.
“I started looking into the Guinness World Records title; it was a book I had flipped through each year as a child, and got to thinking ‘this has to be a record of some kind’. I applied for 1 Woman, 1 Bike, 1 Year all 50 states and Canada...I had not heard of another woman doing this journey and thought it would be a grand proclamation.”
Danell was right, since 2010 there had been several men who had held the category, but never any women.
If she could pull this off, she would be the very first woman to achieve the record for the Longest journey by motorcycle in a single country (individual).
Like every great opportunity, Danell admitted to herself she was fearful: afraid of never starting this record-breaking journey, but more afraid of falling into the routine of a 9-5 career that lacked substance and escapade.
“The biggest danger I faced was before I threw my leg over the bike on day one. I was more fearful of not going, than anything that ‘might’ occur out on the road.
“Once I heard back that what I was proposing could be a record title, I thought about it for a couple of days, and actually sat on Amelia (my Bonneville) and asked what she thought. Obviously she didn’t answer, but sitting with her helped me process that yes, I would attempt to break the current record on my journey and add another layer to what the trip would be for me.”
So Danell set off to live her life to the fullest, declaring a one year sabbatical from her job in the Arizona Department of Education and letting her family know she would be placing her belongings in storage for the next two years as she set off to visit all 50 states of the US and parts of Canada.
She would need equipment that would last her through the journey, repair kits, seating pads, tents for her nights spent camping in national parks, and most importantly, gear that would help her withstand the extreme conditions on the north and south end of the country.
“I was guided throughout my trip by National Parks and scenic routes, and did not use a GPS for mapping - I completed the entire journey with paper maps. I did not know my exact route as I departed, but I had personal goals I wanted to achieve and parks I wanted to see. One of those goals was to camp in every state – box checked! I grew up camping at many of these as a child and it was wonderful to experience them again some 15 or 20 years later, as an adult and by motorbike.”
Danell officially began her record setting journey on September 19, 2014 in her home state of Arizona.
For the next few months, she would spend entire days on the road aiming to break the current record of 23,761 miles traveled by bike in a given country.
In the span of those few months, Danell would spend much of her time meeting new people, singing on highways, appreciating places she had never explored, and passing road signs of cities that seemed to confirm she was doing exactly what she was meant to do.
“On day two it was fitting to pass through Why, Arizona but then continuing my days on through Nice, California, New Hope, Arkansas, Goodnight, Texas, and seeing the signs for cities like Whynot, Mississippi, You Bet, California, and Hope, Louisiana...one cannot help but pull out the inspiration from the road itself standing behind you and cheering you on!”
Most of the places she visited were documented by her photos, which would later be used as verifiable evidence for her attempt.
Like most epic travels, Danell underwent raw emotions, thoughts she would document in her ongoing travel blog based on her motorway experiences.
“I was not prepared to feel…to really feel all my emotions so strongly. Is it the journey, or the time to sit and contemplate? Is it the time spent without speaking to anyone – often days at a time? Or is it just the trip itself and the outcome a journey of this magnitude creates. Some of the emotions are wonderful and freeing and others are just down right odd. Beyond my journey of breaking a world record and among many things this trip was a journey into solitude and re-embracing the jungle of my own thoughts.”
Mirroring her fluctuating emotions, were the instances Danell experienced throughout her trip.
Similar to any long-term expedition, there were highs and lows- but the young biker firmly believed that even the bad moments happened to bring her some good.
During the middle of Danell’s attempt, she was eager to make it back home in time for the Christmas holiday.
At the time, she was in the Northern parts of the US, enduring extreme cold weather conditions. Reporters had warned that the route she was supposed to take was blocked by snow, forcing her to look for alternative options.
That path was no better, the roads scattered with ice and sleet; making for a risky driving environment.
Danell was fully aware she was speeding on ice, knowing fully that this was her only option.
Upon reaching a certain point in the highway, her tires hit the ice at the wrong angle, forcing her to wipeout in nearby banks of snow.
Luckily, the damage was minor, as she had fallen at a relatively low rate of miles per hour; but her accident proved to be a silver lining despite the circumstances.
“It was with happenstance moments that life taught its lessons; unexpected and at times lifesaving. When I crashed at slow speeds on the ice, this gave me a chance to meet a driver coming around the corner who warned me about the blind curve ahead – one that met a steep downward hill with no guard rail and covered in sheet ice. I would take my mini-crash over the possibilities falling down that hill any day. Three moments like this occurred during my year, and became my most profound. Even in their simplicity, they taught me there is more out there in the universe and it will take care of you if you are open to it.”
For the rest of her time Danell wandered through the states collecting moments that would make her attempt unforgettable, such as swimming with manatees, meeting other bikers on the road, and camping under the stars in Yellowstone.
“On my tombstone I suspect it will say something to the likes of: Here lies Danell Lynn...a life well lived, an adventurer, humanitarian and all around wanderlust soul. I think that is how the motorcycle trip fits into the larger themes of my life. At 35 I have been to over 45 countries and the number will only continue; there is more in the world than one person can see in a lifetime.”
Thus after a lengthy time spent with her trusted bike Amelia, Danell made it safely home on February 15, 2015, managing to complete the title she set out to accomplish and doubling the previous record holder’s standard with a new record of 48,600 miles.
“It is surreal, and still sometimes catches me off guard in how honored I am to hold this record.”
Now Danell focuses on her other interests in life, still traveling, but working on speaking engagements to inspire others to pursue a dream as valiantly as she did.
She also leads a significant amount of charity work, donating copies of her book Purposeful Wanderings, which was based off of her record-breaking journey, for children to read.
“It is a wonderful joy to see a young girls eyes light up when she sees another ‘girl’ riding a bike all by herself across the nation, and the glimmer of hope when I say – ‘when you grow up you could do this too - is a wonderful experience to be a part of.’”