A touch of Evel

Last week I was sent to Topeka for a business trip.  As luck would have it, my coworker, Ashley, and I had a little spare time so we hightailed it to a great museum dedicated to Evel Knievel.  It’s a first rate center, and after 6 years in Topeka, it will be moving to Las Vegas in October of 2023.  So if you want to see this unique spot, you still have time.

The Evel Knievel Museum opened in June of 2017.  A little history of the museum. It all started when the Harley-Davidson dealership in Topeka restored Jerry Lee Lewis’ beloved Harley, a 1959 Panhead.  Enter Lathan McKay, a collector of Knievel’s clothes, memorabilia and bikes and the stuntman’s truck, “Big Red.” McKay’s team made a call to the Topeka dealership asking for help in restoring the rig.  The process took about 18 months and more than 100 people worked on the truck.  During that time the dealer, Mike Patterson decided he wanted to build the Evel Knievel Museum.  So he added on to his dealership and opened to the public in 2017.

And a little history on the stuntman himself.. Robert Craig Knievel was born on October 17, 1938 in Butte, Montana.  

Jumping ahead to January 3, 1966,  Knievel made his debut in the “Evel Knievel and His Motorcycle Daredevils” stunt show.  He co-owned a motorcycle shop and used the show to drum up some publicity for his business.

As with most of my museum visits I don’t want to show everything.  I want you to go see it for yourself.  But here are some pics and thoughts from the museum.

The museum tracked Kneivel’s life and career in timeline form.  Starting with pics from his childhood and a letter with a drawing from Bobby to his mother.

Throughout the museum kiosks explain the history of his biggest jumps, show video of the jump, and a diagram to show what, if any bones, he broke on that jump. 

A good chunk of the displays had the actual motorcycle Kneivel used for the jump. 

A number of his outfits and personal items were also on display.  I especially loved his memorabilia area with a box of Evel Kneivel cigars. 

The lunch boxes of my childhood and even a few toys brought back some fun memories as a kid.

Over the course of time Evel would make about 168  jumps.  I was surprised to find out that of those 168, he only crashed 19 times. He claimed to have broken every bone in his body.

He died of pulmonary disease in Clearwater, Florida, in 2007, aged 69. He is buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Butte, Montana.

Photo Courtesy: findagrave.com
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