By William Thomas
An American stunt man is planning to launch himself across the Detroit River from Wyandotte, Michigan, near Detroit, to LaSalle, Ontario on the Canadian side … while tethered to a rocket.
I know what you’re thinking … when it comes to crossing the Canada/U.S. border with the maximum amount of speed – most of us would choose Nexus!
Personally, I see nothing wrong with a man hogtied to what looks and flies like a cruise missile torpedoing himself from the United States to Canada across what was once the largest undefended border in the world. But then again, I can’t speak for some poor bugger shoveling snow in his driveway in the town of LaSalle when the stuntman selects that stretch of tarmac to be his runway.
“The world’s most powerful pop bottle rocket,” as the stuntman describes it, is powered by propane and driven by the steam the heat creates. It can hit up to 350 mph and hopefully, a parachute is deployed upon landing.
The stuntman’s name is “Mad” Mike Hughes because when you want to bind yourself to an exploding projectile normally used to send astronauts into outer space, you do not earn the nickname “Modest” Mike Hughes.
And modest Mike ain’t. Making it clear he’s seeking “worldwide publicity,” Mad Mike says: “I want to validate that I’m the greatest daredevil in daredevil history.” Really? Because Evel Knievel propelled himself over the Snake River on a motorcycle, not The Challenger.
“Everything in life is overcoming objectives,” says Mike. “I don’t care if you’re picking up a woman in a bar or trying to jump a rocket over a river.” Yeah, except when you fail at going home with the woman in the bar, the phrase that best describes it is that you “crash and burn.” But when you fail a successful landing at several hundred miles per hour, you actually do “crash and burn.”
And the chances of Mad Mike and his propane-powered rocket lighting up LaSalle like Bagdad at the midnight launch of “Shock and Awe” are pretty good. A year ago, he fired himself across the Arizona desert for a flight of 1,378 feet (420 meters) and the G-force impact upon landing left him immobile and writhing in pain for two and a half days. That stunt, which he considered a great success, inspired the international river jump currently at the top of his agenda.
Mad Mike currently holds the Guinness World Record for the longest limousine ramp jump in history. In 2002 he drove a tree-ton Lincoln Town Car 103 feet (31.39 meters) through the air, making a hard landing and causing ten teenagers who thought they were going to the prom to spew champagne all over each other.
The river project is not proceeding as quickly as Mad Mike would like, mainly due to the question of liability – who pays if the stunt ends in disaster? With a less than resounding self-endorsement, the rocket man responds with: “I’m prepared to be in surgery and be operated on, ok?” I don’t recall Niagara Falls tightrope walker Nik Wallenda saying: “I’ve already picked out the coffin in case this thing goes south!”
Liability is not the only problem that could put the kibosh to the rocket launch across the border.
• Mike would have to hit his ejection button if, when he approached the border, there were over 400 rockets in front of him and only four inspection booths open.
• Entering Canada at 350 mph, the exchange between Mad Mike Hughes and the Canada Customs officer concerning citizenship, purpose of visit and possession of alcohol, tobacco or firearms would have to be concluded within .003 seconds.
• And he would absolutely be screwed if they asked him to open the trunk of his rocket.
• Mike would almost certainly suffer whiplash if told to pull over for a secondary inspection.
• Mad Mike crossing the border in under a second would surely attract the anger of 600 truck drivers who are parked at the entrance of the Ambassador Bridge each and every day.
• Mad Mike risks unintentionally starring in a Super Bowl commercial for Viagra with the caption: “Hey! Is that a rocket in your pocket or is this some kind of weird international stunt?”
• Most Canadians would miss the point of the whole rocket-crossing unless Mike was carrying $150 worth of groceries and a twelve-pack of beer.
• Seeing a crazed man lashed to a rocket and invading another country, Dick Cheney would die of jealousy.
• Mad Mike’s life could end prematurely when he is spotted over the Detroit River by a guy named Lunatic Larry in nearby Amherstburg who, believing an American invasion of Canada is inevitable, has a Patriot Missile unlocked and loaded on his roof.
That being said, let us not understate the vital role that daredevils and stuntmen play in today’s society. Say what you want about the nature of the feat, these are men with hearts of lions; these are men with nerves of steel; these are men … and I say this having written many stories about guys going over Niagara Falls in barrels … these are men with extra thick oatmeal for brains.
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