Daredevil Nik Wallenda is using the Navajo Nation as a backdrop to one of his most ambitious feats yet — crossing a tightrope 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon. The 34-year-old Sarasota, Fla., resident will set out Sunday on a quarter-mile cable stretched over the gorge that was eyed by another high-wire performer decades ago. The stunt comes a year after he traversed Niagara Falls earning a seventh Guinness world record. He'll be using the same 2-inch-thick cable he used to cross the falls, only this time he won't be wearing a safety harness.His family history is different than most:
Wallendas have been falling, and dying, for generations. In 1962, while performing their token seven-person pyramid ("the Seven") at Detroit's State Fair Coliseum, Nik's cousin Deiter lost his footing and the pyramid collapsed, killing two Wallendas, paralyzing another, and sending Karl to the hospital with a broken pelvis. The very next year, Rietta Wallenda, Karl's sister-in-law, died after falling off of a swaying pole in Omaha. A decade later Chico Guzman, another of Nik's uncles, fell to his death after brushing up against an electric clamp while handing Karl a balance pole in preparation for a 480-foot skywalk.Anytime I hear the name mentioned, I think of the Pontiac Grand Prix "Wider is Better" ad campaign. Then I think of the eskimo with the snow shoes. I couldn't find the high wire ad, but this one made me laugh:
The patriarch himself died in 1978, a year before Nik was born. By then he was 73 years old and round in the middle. "He was God in our family. There was no questioning him," remembers Nik's dad, Terry Troffer, a retired wire walker who married into the Wallenda clan and who now works as Nik's safety coordinator. "He had no intention of dying in a nursing home. He wanted to die on the wire."