Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

VALDOSTA -- One look at Robbie Knievel's wrinkled old map of North America and it's easy to tell the man's been around the block a few times.

The map, which he keeps in the RV he uses to travel around the country, has black marker circles around every city in which the daredevil has ever performed.

And with more than 250 jumps to his credit, it somewhat resembles Verizon's cell phone coverage map.

Yet, after 40 years of being a stuntman and traveling everywhere from Vancouver to Puerto Rico, the famous son of the legendary daredevil Evel Knievel has not performed in seven states.

This weekend, that number will drop to six.

That's when "Kaptain Knievel" will jump over the famed lake at Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta on Saturday at 6 p.m.

And according to professional stunt coordinator Spanky Spangler, who is responsible for setting up this weekend's event, the jump is the first of its kind, in that it starts over water and ends over water.

"I don't have butterflies (in my stomach)," Robbie said Monday during an interview in that famed RV with The Herald. "I have cockroaches."

As he should.

The ramps for the jump's take-off and landing will be supported by barges, and the gap distance is the equivalent of 30 full size cars (approximately 150 feet). But for the 48-year-old Knievel, who says he doesn't practice his jumps before he performs them, it'll be business as usual.

"I say a little prayer in my head (when I'm about to go off the ramp)," Robbie explained as he took a drag from his cigarette. "It's like playing Russian Roulette. You have to have the guts to pull the trigger. You have to keep it together and have a positive mental attitude, because if you hesitate, you lose."

Hesitating is one thing the younger Knievel, who jumped the Grand Canyon in 2000 and the Ceasars Palace fountain in Las Vegas in 1989, does not do.

Robbie said stunt jumpers routinely go 65-to-75 miles per hour on their takeoff and end up at well over 100 on their landing, so everything has to be perfect to land the jump successfully.

"There's no backing out," Robbie said. "One time in my whole life ... I backed out. I went around the ramp because I wasn't going fast enough to make the jump."

Robbie knows what not making the jump feels like. He's broken more than 20 bones but ironically, the worst crash of his life didn't come during a performance.

"I ran into a bridge pillar," Robbie said. "I was just being silly, messing around after a party (when I was young) and tore up both of my knees and a lung. It was pretty bad."

Of course, you can't mention the son without mentioning the father. After all, Robbie got his start in stunt jumping by opening for one of Evel's shows in 1970 -- when he was just 8 years old.

But even after going solo and moving out on his own when he was 16, he couldn't escape his father's shadow.

"He always complimented (me on my career)," Robbie said. "But he would never quite move over or pass the baton, and I never understood that."

Robbie said he later realized it was because all these other daredevils were constantly trying to challenge Evel and make a name for themselves, but they wanted to do it by simply doing bigger jumps.

"They didn't have charisma or speak from the heart," Robbie said. "And my dad always did."

Evel passed away on Nov. 30, 2007, but thanks to Robbie, "Knievel" is still synonymous with stunt jumping.

"There are a lot of fans out there," Robbie said. "There's always some guy who brings his kid and says, 'My dad brought me to see your dad, and I brought my son to see you.' "

Robbie has successfully completed every one of Evel's attempted jumps except for two: Idaho's Snake River Canyon and England's Wembley Stadium. He has plans to jump 16 buses at Wembley -- three more than his father's failed attempt in 1975 on Sep. 19 -- while he's in the process of scheduling the half-mile Snake Canyon jump.

According to Robbie, however, his most important accomplishment was sharing his faith with his dad.

"I sent him a Bible with a bunch of highlighted sections," began Robbie, "(because) God's the only judge of your heart."

Evel eventually became a Christian a few months before he died, even giving a testimony on the "Hour of Power" television program.

Discovering his faith marked one of the first times Robbie, who says he got saved in 1997, did something before his dad.

"I'm not trying to be good enough, (because you can't)," Robbie said. "But I've been on that path since I was young."

In the end, Robbie said his faith, and his confidence he'll see his father again, make each jump a little easier.

And come Saturday, it will also make his map a little darker.



Sure, you've heard all about his daring stunts and famous father, but do you really know Robbie Knievel, the man? Here are a few of his favorite things.

***Favorite band: Bob Seger (right now).

***Favorite food: Sushi.

***Favorite city: Beaufort, S.C. (where he lives).

***Favorite movie: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

***Favorite jump: 1989 Caesars Palace fountain jump.

***Favorite people he's met during his travels: Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds (among others).