If you were a kid growing up in the ‘70’s, chances are Evel Knievel was one of your heroes. A motorcycle daredevil, he was a real life superhero to many kids who wanted to fly on their bicycles and Big Wheels, and he a major icon in seventies pop culture along like Fonzie, Kiss, and The Six Million Dollar Man. Knievel represented virtue and heroism, and he always tried to preach a positive message to the youth of America that we indeed live in a great country, and you can be whatever you want to be in life in you put your mind to it.
One famous lecture he gave before performing a stunt, which is hilarious in hindsight, warned kids about the evils of drugs, comparing them to race car drivers who cheated by putting nitro in their cars. The cars go faster for five to ten laps, “then they blow all to hell. And you kids, if you put nitro in your bodies, in the form of narcotics, to think you’ll do better, you will, for about five or ten years, then you’ll blow all to hell.”
Yet like another seventies icon, Billy Jack, Knievel was deeply flawed in his personal life, to where the contradictions of his private and public personas were glaringly obvious. For many years he battled the bottle, he had a violent temper, and his career essentially ended when he beat the shit out of a journalist with a baseball bat over an unauthorized biography that enraged him.
Before that fateful incident, there was another event that showed the world that Evel wasn’t Superman after all, the Snake River Canyon jump in Twin Falls, Idaho.
On September 8, 1974, Knievel attempted to fly over Snake River Canyon in a custom built rocket, but the parachute opened early, and he never made it to the other side. Many were under the impression that Evel chickened out and deployed the parachute early, a perception that haunted him for the rest of his life.
The rocket was built by Robert Truax, and he never got over this incident either. Truax was a famed rocket scientist, but he’s today known for building an infamous rocket that didn’t work. Now his son, Scott Truax, is hoping to redeem the legacies of Evel, as well as his father, by recreating the Snake River Canyon jump, working from the original research and plans, and fixing the rocket’s initial flaws.