So tell me, who is Dan Zinn?
Honestly, that’s kind of a difficult question to answer. I feel like that’s something I’m still figuring out, and one of the reasons why this trip is so important to me. I’m 26 years old and my thoughts on life have been shaped by a loving and amazing family, a brother who battled and overcame cancer, the dot-com boom, the dot-com bust, September 11, The Great Recession, senseless school shootings, and revolutions occurring around the globe. I’ve lived in China, spent time in Europe, and I love my country — The United States of America. But I’m at a point now where I’m trying to find out what exactly makes people my age feel that way about our country, and whether or not we’re doing the right things to continue feeling proud about all that America stands for.
So that’s why you want to do this ride, to find out what America is all about?
Yes and no. I think that through this experience I will gain a much deeper understanding of exactly that. But my ultimate goal is really much more simple: I want to talk to people. I want to meet new kinds of people from areas of this country I’ve never been to — or even heard of before.
When I was in living in China, I spent two weeks backpacking around the country with a buddy of mine who (thankfully) spoke Mandarin. My grandfather had spent two years in China during WWII, earning a Bronze Star for his heroism and bravery. On this trip of mine, my goal was to visit all of the cities that we could figure out that he had been. We took 20 hour train rides into the middle of nowhere, hitchhiked in the back of pickup trucks, and rafted down the Li River. We spoke to cab drivers, shop keepers, restaurant owners, and fellow travelers. But one thing that frustrated me above all else was that all of this talking had to be done through my friend as my unofficial interpreter. I couldn’t truly join in the conversation myself since I didn’t know the language. I could pick up on body language and other clues, but I wanted to ask some more hard-hitting questions that I never really got the chance to ask. But as I began to learn more about the Chinese people we ran into, I became more and more curious about the lives of those in my own country and about what they would say if posed with the same types of questions.
I get why you want to travel the country, but why on a motorcycle? Won’t your butt hurt?!
Haha, well I’m hoping I get used to it after a while! I want to do this on a bike for a few reasons. First, I guess I just have that wild west adventurer’s spirit in me and this is my way of getting that out. In the old days, people would go across the country on a horse and wagon. Well, this is my “steel horse.” There’s just something primal about it.
Second, I have to take a quote from the bible of motorcycle books, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:”
In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.
On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.
Third, a friend of mine in Beijing (Buck Perley — www.rubberonroad.com) told me about an adventure he took around the US on his bike, an ’05 Dyna Wide Glyde, in 2010. The stories he told just served to make me long to make my journey come true even more.
Finally, I guess the simple answer is “Why not?!” I started riding 2 years ago on an ’05 Suzuki GSX-R600. I immediately fell in love with the thrill and excitement that comes with motorcycle riding. I still have the GSXR, but my new pride and joy is the all american Harley Sportster that I bought about a month ago. I just took it for a test ride up to Burlington, VT and back (about 600 miles in total) and love the feel of it.
What about your parents? I bet they weren’t thrilled when they heard about your plans!
A: No, you’re right, they definitely weren’t thrilled and thought I might have needed to get my head examined. But I’m lucky to have extremely caring and supportive parents that understand me. It took a while, but I think I’ve gotten them used to the idea since telling them about it a few months ago.
The biggest concern they have, and I understand why, is that I will be doing this trip on my own. I spoke to my cousin, Nayim Saati, and a good friend of mine, Jonah Quickmire-Pettigrew — both of whom are extremely talented film editors, sound engineers, and cinematographers, about coming along on the journey with me. Their schedules didn’t work with the timing of the trip, so they couldn’t come, but in the end I think it works out well. They are still going to help with some of the film stuff (I’m planning on shipping some of the footage back the NY for help with the editing), and this way I really get to make the trip my own and have it be that much more “true” (for lack of a better word). I’m also planning on staying with friends and family when I’m in the area, and am hoping that I meet great people along the way that might even end up joining the ride for parts of it. We’ll have to see how it goes…
And your brother? And your friends? What do they think?
My brother and I have always been very close. We tell each other basically everything and he knows me better than probably anyone else. So he gets why this is something I feel I have to do. In fact, when I get to Florida (he lives in Florida and just recently bought his first house there) he’s planning on joining me and traveling with me down to Key West.
My friends think I’m crazy, but I don’t think this trip has really influenced that line of thinking. It’s just served to add one more piece of evidence into the pot. I’ve always been one to do some odd and exciting things, so in a way I think they expect this from me 🙂 My friends are great, though, and I’m so lucky to have the support and friendship that they give me.
Sounds great! Good luck on your adventure!
Thanks so much! No matter what happens, it will be an incredible experience!