“Because it’s there” could be the only reason that anyone would attempt a stunt like “jumping the Grand Canyon.” Of course, it all started out when we were kids, betting who could jump the furthest over the puddle, the campfire, or the creek. Most grow out of it, while others, like movie stuntmen and people like Evel Knievel, just kept going bigger. Wearing the stars and stripes and a cape, Knievel was as much a superhero as any, because he was real flesh and blood, but even he recognized that he wasn’t Superman, and spilled blood and broke bones just like any man.
Still, he had the nerve to do things that others would consider, well, “crazy.” Knievel himself said the only reason people cared about him was “because he did things other men were afraid to do,” like jumping motorcycles over rattlesnakes, cars, fountains, canyons, and sharks. Jumping the Grand Canyon was something that he’d always wanted to do, but time caught up with him, as it does with all men. His failed Snake River Canyon jump – it was more rocket than motorcycle – might have been a prelude to a Grand Canyon attempt. An accident injuring a bystander a few years later might have finally broken his nerve.
If Evel Knievel couldn’t jump Snake River Canyon would anyone finish the jump? Knievel’s son, Robbie seemed to have been a likely candidate, and he even floated the idea, in the 90s and again in 2010, to try jumping the canyon, but it never happened. Eddie Braun was deeply affected by Evel Knievel’s bravery, inspiring his professional career as a television and movie stuntman. Braun successfully jumped 1,400 feet over Snake River Canyon, in “Evel Spirit,” a custom rocket built by Scott Truax, who built Knievel’s “Skycycle X2.” Braun remarks it was like finishing Knievel’s dream to make the successful crossing.
In the end, when it came to jumping the Grand Canyon, a split in Earth’s crust up to 18 miles wide and over a mile deep, would anyone, other than Evel Knievel himself, even consider such a thing? Robbie Knievel, true to his father’s spirit, had already built notoriety, recreating the Caesar’s Palace fountain jump that nearly killed his father two decades before. Robbie went on to jump limousines, buildings, trains, and more. To fulfill his father’s dream, on May 20, 1999, Robbie successfully jumped a small part of the Grand Canyon.
Setting up for the Grand Canyon jump wasn’t easy, as “stunts” don’t fit in Grand Canyon National Park’s mission to “protect resources and providing experiences for park visitors.” Still, American Indian Tribe Hualapai Nation granted Robbie access, in hopes of attracting tourists, but only so long as the ground was left undisturbed. Riding a regular 500-cc motorcycle up a ramp – he reached 80 mph before liftoff – he jumped some 223 feet to the other side. With plenty of room to spare, he overjumped it and landed partway down the landing ramp and onto undisturbed soil, through a few cacti, and into the bales.
True, it’s not like Robbie Knievel jumped 18 miles over 6,000 feet of canyon, not even half a mile, but stunts like these don’t come without consequences and sufficient praise. To date, Robbie Knievel is the only person to have jumped “the Grand Canyon” on two wheels.