Last week I tuned into the History channel for Evel Live, which would see Travis Pastrana duplicate three of Evel Knievel’s famous jumps.
Pastrana was looking to jump 52 crushed cars, 16 buses and of course the jump that almost killed Knievel, leaping over the famous fountain at Caesar’s Palace. In true Vegas style, Pastrana was upping the ante in the first two jumps as two cars and two buses were added to the totals that Knievel had jumped over decades before.
History did a great job of promoting this event and I got suckered in because of a few factors. First of all as a kid, the only thing that got me more excited than the Dukes of Hazzard on TV, was watching Knievel try, and many times fail, to do the seemingly impossible and fly a heavy beast of a bike through the air and hopefully live to talk about it. Secondly, it is hard in this day and age to not be a fan or at least a little bit envious of Pastrana. The world seems to be his amusement park and he has an endless fistful of tickets for the rides. Most appealing to me was that Pastrana would be throwing his leg over an Indian FTR750 to do the jumps as he wanted his steed to be similar to the bikes Knievel jumped back in the day. After a year and a half of hearing people in the flat track world say the Indians are “flying”, we were about to find out if these bikes could indeed become airborne.
Turn the clock back almost fifty years and we can remember the jump that made Knievel famous. Coming up just short of the landing ramp on his Triumph Bonneville (no it wasn’t an XR750 at Caesar’s), Knievel did his best impression of a rag doll that day in front of the shocked crowd. Among his injuries were a broken pelvis, femur, hip, wrist, both ankles and skull fractures, which left him in a coma for a month. Not a bad grocery list for a guy who would break 433 bones over the course of his career. As doctors worked to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, a star was born. Many people thought he actually became more famous for crashing so horribly than if he would have actually made that jump.
Knievel, who died in 2007, had a net worth of about three million dollars when he passed away. Pastrana has an estimated worth of $30 million. Knievel was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999. Pastrana has always been number 199 in his career. The math doesn’t quite work out here but it is close when you multiply by ten. Would Sunday’s three-hour special be ten times better than any of Knievel’s televised events?
Well the answer was no. The three hours seemed to drag on and the attempts to build drama for the most part failed. The whole production bordered on cheesy at times. Made for TV I guess? If I had a dollar for every time they mentioned the weight of the Indian and the lack of suspension, I would have a nice down payment on a new bike. By the way, the Indian apparently gained ten pounds halfway through the show. I find it hard to believe that Pastrana couldn’t do up his own helmet and had to get bike builder extraordinaire Roland Sands to do it for him. I struggled with Johnny Knoxville as one of the hosts. I know he is a huge Evel fan and has his own following, but it was like Woody from Toy Story had been crossed with Bubbles from the Trailer Park Boys. The ride through the Vegas strip on the way to Caesar’s was hard to watch as well. It was kind of like watching Elvis take part in the Royal Wedding, if the Royal Wedding route was populated with drunks and rednecks. The jumps themselves were anti-climactic as Pastrana cleared each distance with ease. Did I want Travis to crash? Hell no! Was I hoping/half expecting at least one of the jumps to at least look a bit difficult? Heck yeah! Maybe when you combine talent with preparation and great equipment, the end result is so smooth it looks like a Sunday cruise. I’m not really sold on the 52-car thing either when there are thirteen stacks of four crushed cars. If I cut six pieces of pizza in half and eat them all, did I eat six pieces or twelve?
None of this rant is meant to take away from what Pastrana accomplished. What he did takes nerves of steel and he pulled of each jump pretty well flawlessly. You would never catch me or 99.9% of the population trying even one of these jumps. As a youngster, Pastrana idolized Knievel and Sunday he got to walk in his shiny boots for a day. He also used those shiny boots to stomp Knievel out of the record books. Oh Travis you have come such a long way since your mother grounded you for life after your first failed backflip attempt way back in 2000. I’m wondering what Pastrana does for an encore? I’m also wondering if Jared Mees was taking notes on Sunday night. Will Mees show up at the next AFT race wearing white leathers and white dress boots? Will he have to hire another crewmember to pull off his cape each race just before the light goes green? Will his bikes show up at a race sporting the same paint that adorned Pastrana’s machines on Sunday evening? Only time will tell.
When I was a kid my favourite toy ever was my Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle. Now I will wait patiently to see if something similar is made honouring Pastrana on board the Indian. If so, I may finally get that Indian flat track bike I so deeply desire.