From: email@example.com (The Nashville Flash) Newsgroups: rec.motorcycles Subject: Rebus Knebus and His Leap... Summary: Adventure Tale
Back around the time that old Richard Milhous had his tit caught in the wringer, my girlfriend, the Bear, and I were touring around the country on an R75/5 BMW named "The Beast." We had all sorts of interesting adventures.
Dare Demon Evel Knievel had shot his mouth off about how he was going to jump the Grand Canyon on his motorcycle. For a number of reasons, including the fact that the Feds own the land on both sides of the Canyon and they aren't partial to suicide and the fact that a mile jump on a motorcycle is... well, impractical, Evel changed his plan a bit.
He bought a piece of land along the Snake River Canyon outside of Twin Falls Idaho. That particular canyon was no where near as wide. But he owned an area for the "launch" ramp. The BLM owned the land on the other side. They refused him permission to "land" there. In the American spirit, he decided, "What the Hell." IF he landed there, they could prosecute him for trespass. Big deal.
Reality set in when Evel realized that a half mile is STILL a real long way to ride a bike with zero road contact. So, he hired himself an ex-NASA rocket engineer by the name of Bob Truax to help with his "project." The end result was a sort-of-a glorified squirt-rocket. Remember those things you got when you were a kid? You put some water in it and then attached the included cheezy air pump. You pumped it up more times than the directions said to; and then lost it in the rain gutter in a vain attempt to fire it over the house. Bob & Evel's excellent adventure was a BIG version of the same idea... using 600 degree (F) superheated steam. They allowed as how Evel could set his fat butt in this thing which would be filled up with environmentally sound steam and uncorked up a ramp-rail at a 45 degree angle. At "just the right moment" Evel (ever in "control") would let go of a handle which would fire a 45 caliber blank to blow the top off a can containing a drogue parachute which would proceed to yank the main 'chute outta the ass-end of the squirt-cycle. The whole get-up would then return more or less gently to Earth and land on its nose which contained, as Evel put it, "a big shock igsorber." If the wind wasn't too far wrong, he ought to end up getting a ticket for trespassing.
If the wind WAS unfriendly, he would either land somewhere else, the operative word being LAND; or else end up IN the Snake River. A rescue boat and cracker jack team of divers had been contracted for the second eventuality. The hope was that they'd be recovering Evel... not Evel's body.
The whole event was staged on Evel's property, which gave him some measure of financial control over the whole thing. He got to sell the tickets. Of course, the press was interested. Maybe there would even be a book and/or movie deal to go with it. Worst case, his heirs would be SET. Well, that was the plan, anyway.
The Bear and I were roaming around (in the seventies) looking for America. Twin Falls, Idaho seemed like a real fine place to see what there was to see, particularly in light of such a once-in-a-lifetime Event. So, we cruised on up there. We arrived three days before "The Jump." We found out that ole Evel wasn't gonna miss a trick... admission was something like $25 and camping was about the same... per night. Assessing the situation, we opted for "Plan B."
There was a (state?) park up the canyon from the launch site by the name of Shoshone Falls which featured low-rent camping. Furthermore, it had a world class swimming hole at the top of the falls. The Falls themselves were pretty darn spectacular, too. We weren't the only ones to come up with this bright idea. When we arrived, there were already more than a thousand folks there. The ranger had given up trying to collect any camping fees. It was pretty funny actually. When you entered the park you picked up one of those "honor system" envelopes which you were supposed to mark with your "numbered camping area" and stick in the strong box with your three bucks. Well here are hundreds of tents, vans, and busses all over the place occupied mostly by scary-looking one percenter-type bikers. Somebody had long since stolen the strong box and the Party was roaring. It continued to grow, every hour of every day, until there was nowhere that there wasn't a tent, motorcycle, stoned hippy, or heathen biker.
We soon found out that we didn't need to give Evel spit to watch him make History... if we climbed up on the rocks behind the Falls, we could see right down the Canyon. We had a free birds-eye view of the launch and landing sites. Cool. Time to party.
This was the first time I had ever seen a bunch of Heathens doing their thing. There were vendors. You could buy motorcycle accessories, dynamometer time, food, dope, beer, liquor, more dope, tie-dyed clothing, dope paraphernalia, and even dope. Of course none of this was organized. There was a bottleneck at the entrance where an old converted school bus was parked. Occupying deck chairs on top was a rogues gallery. Whenever a bunch of new arrivals pulled up the heathens would show signs and holler, "SHOW YOUR TITS!" More often than not, the... uh... Ladies just arriving would flip up their t-shirt or drop down their halter top. A rousing cheer would result. It was generally a wide-open carnival atmosphere.
Occasionally, things would get a little tense, however. There were quite a few "genuine" outlaw bikers there. We saw Hell's Angels, Grim Reapers, Satan's Slaves, Warlocks, and more. They came with their colors and their hardware. Several had leather rifle scabbards with rifles attached to their sissy bars. While some individuals did exchanged words, we saw no violence.
During the day, the activities generally consisted of preparing for the night. This included resting from the previous night and obtaining sustenance and/or provisions. Coming back from a provision run into town one day, we did see the aftermath of a beer truck hijacking. The thing had been picked clean, as if by a swarm of locusts. We also saw more than one Japanese bike burnt to the ground. In addition to Party Prep, there was a beautiful park to enjoy. This included scenic walks through both the splendid natural surroundings and the bizarre unnatural humanoid/biker/carnival surroundings.
Besides all that, there was the swimming hole of which to partake. There was a shallow water fall of twenty or so feet that formed a large pool at the top of the actual Shoshone Falls which were about 150' high. The large pool had a bottom that was sand in places and smooth pebbles in other places. Rocks and boulders were scattered around to lay out and catch rays on or to keep your clothes dry while you got wet. Nuditity was the rule rather than the exception. Nubile young things and grotty old bikers cavorting in the sunshine. It was a "naturalist's" paradise.
At night, the Party really got cranking. The restrooms were sacrificed to feed the bonfire. The doors made nifty ramps; so some nut on a dirt bike started skirting the fire like he was gonna jump it. A big heathen, naked from the waist down (except for his boots), hollered, "If you don't jump that fire, you don't have a hair on your ASS!" And then, as if to show what he meant, the big drunk stood on the "ramp" and picked up a brand the size of your arm from the fire, reached around behind himself and shoved it forward and up between his legs so it looked like he had this huge flaming hard-on. "Haaarrrghh!," he said. "RROOAAARR!," said the crowd. Several of us wondered if THIS guy had any hair on HIS ass after that stunt. So the guy on the dirt bike, his manhood duly challanged, started jumping the fire, with the crowd cheering his achievements. Then some other nut on an ATC (one of the DANGEROUS three wheelers) got into the act. Something went wrong with one of his big balloon tires and the thing fell over. He quickly scrambled out of harm's way. But the ATC was barbequed, much to the amusement of the onlookers.
At some point, a lone state trooper arrived, on foot. There was no way he could have gotten his car to within a half mile of the campground as the road was so bottlenecked with vans and busses that it was a "motorcycles ONLY" road. He was in his fifties and a little on the pudgy side. The man didn't look like he was all that happy to be attending this particular gathering at this particular time. He inquired as to who had filed the report about the person going over the falls. Of course, with a crowd THIS big, nobody had a clue and everybody had an opinion. Furthermore, being drunk and stoned, they all wanted to share it. That brave officer then proceeded to borrow a wrench from someone to adjust a flood light to see the bottom of the falls about 150' below. I don't think anyone really went over. It was probably just somebody's idea of a "funny" thing to do.
Burning the rest rooms had a definite effect on hygiene. The next morning, I wandered into the woods to take a leak. On my way back, I noticed a fellow brushing his teeth using the water from the stream through the campground. I pointed out the pile of "effluvium" in the water about five feet up stream. He shrugged and kept on brushing.
Finally the big day came. We all climbed the rocks behind the falls to view the historic event. Someone had the forsight to bring a radio. He would periodically hollar out reports. At one point he said, "They just gave amnesty to the draft dodgers." (Which was a Relevant issue at the time.) This was greeted with many "YAYS!" and many "BOOOS!". Then he said, "No, NO. I got it wrong. They just gave amnesty to NIXON!" Universal BOOOOOOOO!
After several delays of the count down for one reason or another, it reached TEN... NINE... EIGHT... SEVEN... SIX... FIVE... FOUR... THREE... TWO... ONE... We could see the rocket on the launch rail squirt forward... but something was wrong. Before it even left the rail, the drogue 'chute was out. A red smoke plume was following the rocket. The main 'chute deployed while the rocket was still approaching apogee. The missle topped out about two thirds of the way across. It then pointed straight down, and hung from the 'chute with red smoke coming out the back. The wind was blowing the wrong way. The rocket dropped into the canyon.
From our vantage point, we had a perfect view of the action. The rocket drifted lazily into the launch-side wall of the canyon. It hit, the parachute collapsed, and then it slid down the steep wall. We watched it slide and slide. We thought it was surely going to go into the raging river. The motorboats with the divers were running up and down the river jockeying for position. It finally stopped after rolling over and over, just a few feet shy of the water. It was probably less than a minute, but it seemed like forever before the crews reached the big squirt-"bike" and opened the hatch. Evel was alright. Yay!
We heard later that when it dropped out of sight of the people who had actually paid money, there was a riot. The people in the back rushed the fence. Those in the front were afraid of getting pushed over the edge, so a brawl started. We stopped by the "pay" area later, on our way out, to get a close look at the facilities (since it was now "free"). A Cadillac had been torched as had a few more Jap bikes. The ramp looked just like it did from further away, only it was bigger. (What did we THINK!?)
The throng of the lunatic fringe of humanity was headed, for the most part, south. So we opted to head north. We found some beautiful country in Idaho. There's more tales to tell about Idaho. But not now.
Reading up on the subject in the newspapers and mazagines put the sequence of events in perspective. When the "sky-cycle" went POOT!, Evel probably lost conciousness momentarily. He, at the very least, lost his grip on the handle he was supposed to be holding to keep the lid on the 'chute can. Whether or not the thing would have made it across if the parachute had not been deployed so early is anybody's guess. I think it might have. No matter what, you have to hand it to old Evel Knievel. He shot his mouth off about how he was gonna jump the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle, and then he did his damndest to do SOMETHING to back it up. Maybe it wasn't the Grand Canyon. And maybe it wasn't REALLY a motorcycle. But, I KNOW I wouldn't have set MY butt in that thing. Would YOU? And for a brief, shining moment, Evel Knievel was known around the world.