Don's Bike Across America
Astoria, Oregon to Portsmouth, New Hampshire
June 19 to August 7, 2006

Don's Blog: June 29: Twin Falls, Idaho

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The title of the this blog is not only the final destination of today’s ride, but the title of an odd, moving, relatively unknown movie I saw several years ago, about a pair of Siamese twins that live in the town and the twists and turns of their lives together. I would recommend it, but not if you are looking to be uplifted.

Today’s ride was 97 miles from Mountain Home to Twin Falls. The route featured back roads and light traffic, without too many tough climbs. We were also beneficiaries of a nice cloud cover, which kept the temperature down, and a favorable wind. Thus, the miles passed fairly quickly, although truth be told, 97 miles is still 97 miles. We started at 6:30 a.m. and our small group rolled in a little after 1:30 p.m.

Upon reaching town we stopped at the Snake River Canyon Overlook. It looks like a mini Grand Canyon─very impressive. The canyon is up to 500 meters deep in some places. Some believe the Canyon was created by a cataclysmic flooding of Lake Bonneville approximately 14,000 years ago. However, geologists now believe that while the canyon was shaped by the flood, its basic structure predated it. It best known as the place that Evil Knievel attempted to “jump” the width of the Canyon in a “skycycle.”

Evil Knieval's Stunt

According to Wikipedia, by 1971, Knievel, already a well known stuntman, realized that the United States government would never allow him to jump the Grand Canyon. To keep his fans interested, Knievel considered several other stunts that might match the publicity that would have been generated by jumping the canyon. Ideas included: jumping across the Mississippi River jumping from one skyscraper to another in New York City and jumping over 13 cars inside the Houston Astrodome. While flying back to Butte from a performance tour, Knievel looked out the window and saw the Snake River Canyon. After finding a location near Twin Falls, Idaho that was both wide enough, deep enough and on private property, Knievel leased 300 acres for $35,000 to stage his jump. He set the date for Labor Day, 1972.

Knievel then hired former NASA engineer Robert Traux to design and build the X-2 Skycycle. During two test jumps, the first on April 15, 1972, and the second on June 24, 1973, the rocket failed to make it all the way across the canyon. Knievel said that there would be no more tests and that he would go ahead with the scheduled jump on September 8 1974.

The launch at the Snake River Canyon was at 3:36 p.m. local time. The steam that powered the engine had to get up to a temperature of 700 degrees. Two-thirds the way up the ramp, the drogue parachute accidentally deployed. The deployed chute caused enough drag that the skycycle couldn't make it all the way across the canyon. The skycycle turned on its side and started to descend into the canyon. The main chute deployed, allowing the wind to carry the skycycle into the canyon wall. By the time it hit the bottom of the canyon, the wind had pushed it across the river enough so that it landed half in and half out of the water. Knievel survived the jump with only minor injuries.