From Detroit to Windsor — in a rocket
All Mad Mike Hughes wants is a place in the U.S. to launch his homemade rocket. Oh, and a place in Canada to land it. Or vice versa.
With himself strapped in the cockpit, at up to 350 mph.
He's found no takers here or elsewhere for a variety of reasons, including potential liability, potential environmental damage, and the potential that the darned fool might kill himself. But is Mad Mike giving up?
What are you, crazy?
Mad Mike, 58, is out to prove he's the greatest daredevil in the history of daredevildom. Also, he wants to inspire children, energize grown-ups and embarrass a few rich guys like Richard Branson and Elon Musk.
All he needs is a bit of cooperation from Wyandotte, or Detroit, or a German chemical company, or Windsor, or the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp., or someplace else he hasn't identified yet on Google Earth.
"It ain't all about Mad Mike Hughes," says the quick-speaking, high-aiming, no-punch-pulling, gray-haired private limousine driver from Ontario, California.
It's about principle, too, and what once made America soar, and ideally TV rights.
Detroit is plan B
Best case, Mad Mike will take off in the springtime from 50 miles south of Ottawa and float gently to Earth a mile or so later in New York State.
Metro Detroit to Windsor is the attractive, if equally elusive, Plan B.
"Here's why nothing great happens anymore," Mad Mike says. "People think of reasons to say no instead of saying yes" — even when a fellow has a track record.
A year ago, Mad Mike's propane-fueled, steam-driven X-2 SkyLimo raced up a ramp in Winkelman, Arizona, and soared 1,374 feet, and all it cost him was 21/2 days immobilized in his motor home afterward from the G-forces.
Back in 2002 in California, he was recognized by Guinness World Records Ltd. for jumping a 3-ton, 6-door Lincoln limousine 103 feet into a pile of tires.
Somehow, though, that has not translated into any welcomes for an international voyage.
The seaway authority, Mad Mike says, is worried about boat traffic. A Detroit parks official hasn't answered his emails. Peche Island, 86 uninhabited Canadian acres at the entrance to Lake St. Clair, is too delicate.
BASF owns an island in the Detroit River that could work for the landing, but a spokeswoman explained to him in an email that "Safety is a core value of BASF, and as such, we would not allow our property to be used for such an activity."
In Wyandotte, special events coordinator Heather Thiede broke the news that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service controls Grassy Island and humans are not welcome there, with or without launch ramps.
Mad Mike's application was "one of the more out-there requests" she has looked into, Thiede concedes. Personally, she'd like to watch him fly.
He just can't do it from her city.
Blue collar guy out to fly
The son of a bump shop worker from Oklahoma City, Mad Mike is a former motorcycle racer and NASCAR sheet metal shaper.
He'll tell you, without prompting, that "I'm a pretty bright guy. I know how air moves around things."
If he had the money, he contends, he could launch himself into space, something the Virgin Group's Branson and Tesla's Musk can't claim: "They take all the credit and they have all the money, but all they do is hire people, and they still haven't launched a human being."
Mad Mike figures his jaunt across the water will cost about $100,000. Unlike the moguls, he doesn't have it, he says. Sponsors would, and imagine what a 6-year-old from Detroit might be inspired to do after he sees a blue-collar guy hurtle through the sky between two countries.
The object is to push yourself, he says. Look at him. He doesn't go out drinking beer or care who wins the Super Bowl. He just grabs a wrench and a torch and accomplishes things.
"I'm not saying everyone needs to jump a rocket," he says. But he can, so he does.
And he will, he promises, with guts and gusto — as soon as he figures out where.