A Hero of Mine: Evel Knievel
Hoist a stiff drink to the memory of Robert Craig Knievel, who has made the ultimate leap. Evel passed away today at age 69.
Evel Knievel was a huge influence on me in my younger days. His appearances on ABC's Wide World of Sports in the late 60s and early 70s lit the fuse which led to my finally getting a motorcycle at age 13. The images of him on his XR750, flying through the air and (usually) landing successfully on a bike with less than 6 inches of suspension travel were just the absolutely coolest things I ever saw.
I met Evel in one of the aisles at the Interbike show, in Las Vegas, in 2001. He was still recovering from the hepatitis A and susequent liver transplant he had gotten in 1999, and walked that slow, careful, old-man walk. But his handshake was firm, and he was very gracious to me as I pretty much just grovelled at his feet. It was the most exciting thing to ever happen to me at a bike show, that's for sure. Yet, I was sad to see him appear so frail.
Later, I walked out of the convention hall, and saw a crowd in the parking lot. Expecting to see a trials rider, or some flatland BMX, I walked over to check it out.
There was Evel, on a 1200cc Harley, popping wheelies, with one hand on the bar and the other waving to the crowd. Yeah, real frail, that guy.
Farewell, Evel. You will always be a hero to me.