Destination Kansas: Take an action-packed adventure at the Evel Knievel Museum in Downtown Topeka

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TOPEKA, Kan. — Downtown Topeka is full of historic sites, but for one of the most unique, action-packed experiences, the Evel Knievel Museum in Downtown Topeka may be where you want to plan your next trip.

“Evel Knievel was worldwide, he was one of the biggest figures in the 1970s,” said Mike Patterson, co-founder of the museum.

The museum honors the legacy of legendary stuntman, and self-proclaimed “explorer,” Evel Knievel, who inspired some of the most daring athletes of our time. Patterson said that includes, people like stuntmen Travis Pastrana and Robbie Madison, and even famous skateboarder Tony Hawk.

The dare-devil who was born Robert Craig Knievel, tried a little bit of everything. From attempting to jump over the water fountains at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas to flying a steam-powered rocket over Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho.

In numerous stunts, Knievel took a “leap of faith,” and so can visitors at the Evel Knievel Museum. But, they don’t have to worry about breaking any bones on the 4-D Jump Experience the museum offers.

For just an extra $5, visitors can hop on a Harley motorcycle, and take a simulated ride on one of the most dangerous jumps inspired by Knievel, which took place right in downtown Topeka.

Mike Patterson, co-founder of the Evel Knievel Museum (left), and stuntman Doug Danger (right), as he prepares to perform stunt inspired by Evel Knieve, August 7, 2016, in Topeka. (KSNT/Keith Horinek)

In 2016, Doug Danger, a stuntman, came to the capital city with a mission in mind: Jump 15 police cars. He used a 1972 Harley Davidson to make the jump. The event, which coincided with the yearly “Harley Party,” was all for the Boys & Girls Club of Topeka.


THE TOPEKA CONNECTION TO EVEL KNIEVEL

The Evel Knievel Museum in downtown Topeka is home to one of the largest collections of Knievel memorabilia, but co-founder Mike Patterson was shocked to find out about the unique connection the legendary stuntman had to the capital city.

Located inside the Historic Harley Davidson in Topeka, the idea for the Evel Knievel Museum started with the restoration of Knievel’s famous truck, “Big Red.”

“It just kind of evolved into finding out that there really wasn’t an Evel Knievel Museum anywhere,” Patterson said.

Patterson, who also owns Historic Harley Davidson, contacted Lathan McKay, an avid collector of Evel Knievel artifacts. McKay and Patterson joined together to create the Evel Knievel Museum.

However, Patterson was surprised to learn that Topeka was also the hometown of one of Evel Knievel’s greatest inspirations.

One day, a woman came to meet Patterson in his office, and told him that her mother had a picture with Evel Knievel.

“I asked her, well, why does your mom have a picture with Evel?” Patterson explained.

The woman was related to Joie Chitwood, an American racecar driver, who got his start as a welder at Meinholdt’s Welding & Machine Shop in North Topeka. Chitwood put on his own stunt show, called the “Joie Chitwood Thrill Show,” which was what inspired Knievel to perform his own stunts, after seeing Chitwood at 15-years old.

Patterson said this connection inspired an era of resilience and courage.

“If it wasn’t for this guy from Topeka, Kansas, there would be no Evel Knievel.”

THE TALE OF A “SUPERHERO”

Evel Knievel
FILE – In this Sept. 8, 1974, file photo, Evel Knievel sits in the steam-powered rocket motorcycle that will hopefully take him across Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho. Evel Knievel’s son is on a collision course with the Walt Disney Co. and Pixar over a movie daredevil character named Duke Caboom. A federal trademark infringement lawsuit filed Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in Las Vegas accuses the moviemaker of improperly basing the “Toy Story 4” character on Knievel. (AP Photo, File)

The Evel Knievel Museum attracts a huge audience from across the world, all inspired by Knievel’s daring spirit. Over 175 jumps and 19 crashes, but Patterson said Evel Knievel always got back up, which is a message he wants visitors to remember.

“They show the number of broken bones he had in his body, so to do that over and over again, was impressive,” said Keith Moore, a visitor from Boston, Massachusetts.

Patterson said Knievel’s persistence is what made him a “superhero to people.”

Even when he got slammed to the ground, broken bones, he would come back.

For more information on how to plan your trip to the Evel Knievel Museum, click here.

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