Hey, I've got an idea!

Ted Streuli, The Daily Record Newswire

There are a lot of bad ideas in the world. Several have been mine.

I imagine that many bad ideas start with the phrase, "Hey I've got an idea," a phrase disproportionately uttered by men. The phrase is often followed by a rousing chorus of, "Yeah! That could work!" a phrase disproportionately uttered by men drinking beer.

Such was likely the conversation that caused Reza Baluchi to decided it would be great to run from Florida to Bermuda. He concocted a bubble with paddles that allowed him to jog gerbil-like on the water, complete with a hammock to sleep in. His plan was to eat fish he would catch, supplemented with a supply of protein bars. His first attempt, in 2014, resulted in a Coast Guard rescue about 70 miles off the coast of St. Augustine, Florida, which cost about $144,000. When Baluchi decided to try again this year, the Coast Guard warned him to remain ashore because the bubble was an unsafe vessel. As men with great ideas are inclined to do, he ignored the warnings, secured the required support boat to get him as far as international waters, and set out for Bermuda on April 22. On April 25 the Coast Guard rescued him again and towed him home.

Disclaimer: There is a preponderance of men, but it's not an exclusive club. It was a woman, Annie Taylor, who was the first to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. That was in 1901, and she survived. Since then, 12 men and one other woman have gone over Horseshoe Falls, and one of the men did it twice. Of the 13 attempts, three died. One other, Canadian Karel Soucek, survived the falls but was killed when he tried to re-create the stunt by dropping into a tank inside Houston's Astrodome.

Evel Knievel was likely the all-time champion of, "Hey I've got an idea." He got famous on ABC's Wild World of Sports jumping motorcycles over rows of, well, almost anything. His first jump, in 1965, was a 40-footer over some rattlesnakes and two mountain lions. He moved on to jumping cars, 12 at first, eventually 22, and crashed several times in the process. On New Year's Eve, 1967, Knievel was set to jump 141 feet over the fountains at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. He crashed upon landing, breaking ribs, his hip and crushing his pelvis. He was hospitalized for 29 days.

During his career, he attempted 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps and fractured bones 433 times. He peaked in 1973-74, making nearly one-third of those jumps in that two-year span, including a successful May 5, 1974 jump over 10 Mack trucks in Tulsa. But the big jump was on Sept. 8 that year, when Knievel planned to ride a rocket over Idaho's Snake River Canyon. All the other 13-year-old boys were enthralled right along with me. So was ABC; seven of the 10 highest-rated episodes of Wide World of Sports featured Knievel.

The steam-powered rocket, the Skycycle 2, didn't carry Knievel over the canyon but it would have. The failure wasn't the rocket's engineering; what ruined the stunt was the untested parachute, which opened right after launch, causing Knievel to float safely to the canyon's bottom.

Scott Truax wants to redeem his father's rocket design. He's built one from the original plans and will try to send it over the canyon this summer with Hollywood stuntman Eddie Braum at the helm. He told The New Yorker that the parachute has been re-engineered and tested. And it stayed put.

I'm pretty sure it all started with Scott Truax was sitting around one day and proclaiming, "Hey I've got an idea!"

Published: Fri, Nov 11, 2016

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