Danell Lynn is aiming to gatecrash the Guinness World Records book for the longest journey in a single country on a motorcycle. The 30-something is part way through visiting every one of America’s 50 states, Canada and Alaska, on her 2006 Bonneville called Amelia.
Rhys Lawrey has his sights set on the record for most consecutive capital cities visited and youngest person to circumnavigate the world by motorcycle. He is 23, has ticked off London to Bangkok, Australia and New Zealand, USA and is now in South America with Tigger, his Tiger 800XC.
Danell – I couldn’t keep denying the burning desire deep within me for a life I was not living. I wanted to embrace the beauty of uncertainty in adventure and take hold of it with both hands. I’ve been a travel addict for years. The euphoria it exerts is unlike any other and the moment I return home I’m ready for my next fix.
Rhys – I got the bug from my father Kevin Sanders, who holds the Guinness World Record for going round the world on a bike in under 20 days in 2002. I won’t beat that but to follow in his tracks is amazing.
“Even after a rough day with challenge after challenge you wake up the next day and think ‘that was amazing, I feel so alive’”
Which single moment confirmed you were doing the right thing?
Danell – I’ve been in love with Triumphs for years for the cool factor and the badass looks from Steve McQueen. It’s a sexy bike with great curves… it’s a physical attraction. When I selected my Bonnie for this trip, people said I was crazy. ‘It’s not meant for that’, ‘it’s a city bike, you need an adventure bike’. The more people said you can’t, the more I wanted to say ‘yes I can’.
Rhys – Triumph is an iconic young brand that says ‘cool’. The engine is stunning and just looking at my bike makes me think ‘yesssss’. It has style and class and badass mixed in. After my first two miles of the trip, I knew I could complete it.
What were you doing before you made up your mind?
Danell – I worked 40 hours a week for the State Department of Education in Arizona. I’m also a small business owner, freelance writer and run two humanitarian aid companies. After traveling the 50 states as a child, I wanted to re-experience it and knew if I didn’t go, I’d regret it forever. I’ve only been riding my own bikes for five years, so I’m proof that this is achievable for all.
Rhys – After leaving school at 17 I went into hospitality, working my way through cafes, restaurants and bars, but it was always a means to an end. I wanted a challenge and this is it.
What’s your route?
Danell – I don’t have a specific one but am guided by National Parks, school visits, Triumph dealership invites and severe winter weather threats. I started up the western coast of California, Oregon and Washington – the variety within each state, from coastal roads to inland back roads, has been a wonderful surprise. There’s no direct route, but my goal is to complete by September 19, a year to the day after I left Phoenix, Arizona.
Rhys – I started in London and headed across northern Europe through China to Bangkok before dipping down into Australia through snow and rivers. Then I flew to Los Angeles and down into South America and city floods in Peru. I’m currently heading through Argentina, with the next stop in Cape Town in South Africa.
I’ve done just under 40,000 miles in about 46 weeks, with the Tiger whipping me through more than 33 countries.
Did the first few days confirm your belief in the mission?
Danell – Not really. I had a swarm of emotions from wondering ‘what the bloody hell am I doing?’ to the thrill of taking off on an adventure. Body aches and pains and forgetting my backpack at a gas station with everything important in it. It was a whirlwind that had me in tears, but a good cry, deep breath and I was off again.
Rhys – They were tough. At first I really missed those moments you want as a 23-year-old – to have one of my close mates riding with me. But as I grew into the trip, I turned to Facebook and it felt like they were there by my side.
“It was a whirlwind that had me in tears, but a good cry, deep breath and I was off again”
Your highlights so far?
Danell – Some of the highs came out of lows, like when I had two rear tire blowouts and coped with both. In Washington I learned to fly fish and in Florida I swam with manatees in the wild. They are gentle giants, more like puppies, they can’t see very well and come right up to you and feel your face with their whiskers – a manatee kiss. It was wondrous. I miss them greatly.
Rhys – Everything. Even after a rough day with challenge after challenge you wake up the next day and think ‘that was amazing, I feel so alive’.
Scenery wise, it has to be the Chinese Sand Dune Desert in western China. Who’d have thought China had deserts?
Describe the freedom?
Danell – Mine is a journey of exploration of self and country, so being part of nature is incredible. I wanted to camp in every state and my favorite so far was in Louisiana, called North Toledo Ben State Park, where the birds woke me, coyotes and insects sent me to sleep and camp fires burned all day while I devoured books, took hikes and watched otters play at sunset. The best part of camping in winter is that no one else does.
Rhys – Taking in the wonders of Mother Nature alongside the mental and physical challenges of pushing through whatever obstacle Tigger and I had to face.
Has anything shocked or delighted you?
Danell – Yes, the reaction of a little girl at a school I visited. Her eyes lit up when she saw a girl riding a bike all by herself across a nation, and hope when I said she could do it one day.
And the large birds in Florida that would take flight as my pipes rumbled by the marshes. Like a movie, they’d fly next to me for a bit so my smile pushed my cheeks into the helmet.
Rhys – Back home we hear so much about the world, places, people and cultures, so one thing that shocked me is how inaccurately the media portrays different people. China wowed me the most because the people were just overwhelming and the place made me feel alive.
Colombia, a nation branded ‘dangerous’, was anything but for me. Both made me realize that people are people, all trying to survive, protect their families and put food on the table. It’s that simple.
How has the bike handled?
Danell – Apart from a new front wheel bearing after 15,000 miles she is going strong and eating up 500 miles a day at sea level in Death Valley, California, and 9,000 feet through the mountains. She’s my companion, she’s tough when I feel weak – we are a great team.
Rhys – The Tiger has been unbelievable. I’ve put it through everything and all sorts of terrain – snow in New Zealand, river crossings, mud and it just keeps on going. It’s so reassuring because I know it will turn over every time.
What will you do when you finish?
Danell – I’m not sure, but a trip like this opens doors to opportunities. Most of all I’m looking forward to seeing and experiencing things that I cannot yet imagine.
Rhys – I’ll be 24 and will have to pay my credit card bills, so it will be back to a normal job, but I want to continue inspiring others to get out and do what they want.
Famous last words
Danell – The life you want can be painted in any way you choose. The only one who holds the brush is you. I painted a beautiful black Bonnie and the open road… what will be on your canvas?
Rhys – ‘If you want to do something, think of how you can do it not what’s stopping you. Don’t just dream, plan and put it into action, live life fully NOW!
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