~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Friday, November 30, 2007

American Original

Robert Craig "Evel" Knievel, 1938-2007

There's an old saying that's popular with motorcycle guys: "Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting "Holy #$%^, what a ride!"

Evel Knievel lived out that old saying probably better than anyone I can recall.

In 2004 I stood in front of the fountains at Caesar's Palace Casino in Las Vegas and thought about Knievel trying to jump them "way back when" on a 300lb Triumph with maybe 4 inches of of suspension travel to cushion the landing. I had to admit he had guts to even think about it let alone actually try it. If you check YouTube you can probably find the video of his spectacular crash. Years later, about 1989, Knievel's son Robby did the jump and pulled it off but he did it on a modern motocross bike with oodles of suspension travel. Old timers knew it wasn't the same deal as trying it on the old Triumph like his dad did.

I have to be honest and say that I was never a Knievel fan; I thought his over the top flamboyance was a little too carnival, a little too hucksterish. I saw him several years ago at a bike run sitting at a table signing autographs at $25 a pop and his face surely showed every bit of the life he'd lived.

In his last days Knievel showed up in a big church out in California professing a late-in-life acceptance of Christ. I'm always a little skeptical of last minute conversions by the famous and the infamous, especially when it's done with a bit of show and on TV but then we're talking about Evel Knievel, a man who spent his life as a motorcycle daredevil showman so how could it not be a show? Knievel's health, long poor, was obviously failing quickly and after a lifetime of risk taking I don't think he would try and put one over on God just before the biggest jump of them all.

Whether a great motorcycle rider or just a great showman he was most assuredly one of a kind, as someone said, he was "Elvis on a motorcycle." No doubt if such things were permitted in Heaven there'd be some ramps set up by the Pearly Gates and Evel Knievel would be selling tickets to his big arrival.


Unknown said...

Well said!

Anonymous said...

I was going to write something about EK, but after reading your piece, I've decided against it. I think I'll just link to yours because I couldn't say it better or more accurately.

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