See No Evel

My great good fortune continues. First, I arrived at Weiser, Idaho the same week as the annual Old Time Fiddler’s Contest. Then I got to the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon just in time for the Huckleberry Feast and Pow Wow. Now I have arrived in Twin Falls, Idaho at almost the exact 25th Anniversary of Evel Knievel’s legendary jump across the Snake River.

The Snake River Canyon at Twin Falls is maybe a third of a mile wide. It has the familiar sheer basalt cliffs of the canyons of Eastern Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Dark brown rock, crumbly looking, like the Thing from Fantastic Four, drops away from the straw colored grass at the lip. Here at Twin Falls there’s a difference – not only is the canyon a lot wider than most, but at its bottom, there are the carefully tended greens of a gold course. Water siphoned from the Snake has created a little emerald oasis at the bottom of the cliffs.

I walked up to the Bob Turgidson Visitor Center, where a sign proudly proclaims “One man’s dream came true”. By which I understand that Bob’s dream was to create a visitor center, which seems a small dream. “Dream small and succeed!” might be a good slogan.

The visitor center gives Bob short shrift, however, and concerns itself more with Evel Knievel. Outside the visitor center there is a full color hand drawn plaque which shows the red white and blue sky cycle, a sort of two wheeled rocket, as it flies across the canyon. It is clearing the great earthen ramp, its nose pointed up at the 45 degree angle that will give it maximum distance. (The ramp, by the way is still visible back behind a farm house about a mile distant. The docent of the visitor center will happily point it out to you). In the plaque, the sky is light blue, the beetling cliffs black. The sky cycle seems to hang in midair – maximum thrust, giddy flight. It is the moment just before the premature deployment of the safety chute that brought Evel back to earth, short of his goal. Betrayed by technology (I disregard the doubters that claim that Evel, panicked, yanked on the chute himself). O Evel, our Icarus! I bought the 25th anniversary mug, as well as a bag of fool’s gold, which seemed the fitting complement.

After the moving experience of Evel’s doomed flight (Motto: “Dare to Fail Big!”) I went to Shoshone Falls, about 3 miles upstream. A beautiful cascade, the green water plunging 210 feet down over tawny cliffs (higher than Niagra!, the sign boasts). However, there is a dam built across the top, and there are many signs which apologize for the lack of water which occurs from time to time, when all of the Snake gets diverted for agricultural purposes. I was reminded of a hiking trip to Yosemite I took with my father in September some years back. It was the end of the dry season, so most of the famous waterfalls had dried up. We went to see one, at that time just a sheer gray face of rock, a little wet. Nevertheless, tourists dutifully trotted up to have their pictures taken in front of where the waterfall would be, were there water to fall.

Now I am on Route 50 in Nevada which proclaims itself “The loneliest road in America”. Miles of sage brush stretch out to the horizon and the hazy rounded humps of the hills in the distance. It is interesting to drive this treeless landscape. The haunches and folds of the land are all visible, and sometimes the bones protrude. It would be quite restful, were it not for the high winds that occasionally buffet the van, sending it skittering sideways.

I have loaded on great quantities of water, and am heading for Burning Man.

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About Tom Weiser
This blog is devoted to the development of the Bad Lama's Guide to Meditation.

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