“I created Evel Knievel, and then he sort of got away from me.” ~ Evel Knievel
As a kid, nothing excited me more than watching Evel Knievel sail through the air on his motorcycle as he defied gravity and death! I’ve been an Evel Knievel fan since I was a wee lad, imitating his death defying jumps first on my bicycle, then my motorcycle. I never jumped Mack trucks or canyons, but conquered many ditches, creeks, and hay field terraces! And only one concussion! On a recent trip back to Kansas to attend my beautiful niece’s graduation from Emporia State University, I spotted a billboard for The Evel Knievel Museum located in Topeka, Kansas…of course I had to stop and check it out!
The Evel Knievel Museum is housed at Topeka Harley Davidson in Topeka, Kansas. It opened in May of 2017 and pays homage to the greatest motorcycle daredevil that ever lived: Robert “Evel” Knievel (1938-2007). The Kansas connection to Evel is multifaceted. George “Joie” Chitwood came to Topeka after his military career to live with family. It was in this environment that Joie learned about race cars and welding. This eventually led to a stellar racing career and then to the Joie Chitwood Thrill Show, which included daring motorcycle jumps. The Joie Chitwood Thrill Show found its way to Butte, Montana in 1953 and in the audience that fateful day was a young Robert Knievel.
“The first time I saw Joie Chitwood perform in my hometown, Butte, Montana, the thing that impressed my 15 year old mind the most was his intoxicating spirit and incredible showmanship. It was then I knew, this business was for me.” ~ Evel Knievel
The connection continues when collector of all things Evel, Lathan McKay, acquired Knievel’s 63 foot long Mack Truck mobile home, Big Red, and had it restored by the Topeka Harley Davidson crew under the supervision of Mike Patterson. According to Patterson about Big Red, “Once we had it here, we didn’t want it to leave.” He added 16,000 square feet and a second floor to Topeka Harley Davidson to house the museum with Big Red as the centerpiece!
I recently visited the museum with my dad and brother as we passed through Topeka, Kansas on our way to Kansas City International Airport for my flight back to Japan. We spent a couple of hours in the museum learning about Evel Knievel, watching awesome video of his successful jumps and crashes, and celebrating his storied career. We had a great time. If you are casual or avid fan, this museum is for you. Thank you Topeka Harley Davidson for honoring the greatest motorcycle daredevil to ever live!
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