Yes, tall people can be pilots

Tall Pilot with a Piper Cherokee

Usually I’m blogging about transportation that stays on the ground, but I thought I’d reassure tall people that they can be as comfortable piloting an aircraft as they can driving a car. It’s rarer, but possible nonetheless.

I’ve been fascinated with airplanes ever since Dad drove me out to Lunken Airport in Cincinnati to watch Cessnas and Pipers roar to life and climb up out of “Sunken Lunken.” When I was in college I spent weekends working on the ramp fueling and loading regional jets at CVG for Comair, and when I moved to Oklahoma I was ready to start taking lessons.

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My Ranz des Vaches


Apparently we’d taken a wrong turn onto some dark back road in Sandusky. My sister’s boyfriend reached into the cooler in the back seat and then smacked himself lightly in the face with ice-cold water to stay awake.

I was maybe twelve years old, on the way back from a day trip to Cedar Point, and this was perhaps the first time I’d been more than an hour from home. The darkness was disorienting and we seemed lost during a time before personal GPS.

During the drive, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound” came onto the radio. I broke down and wept.

Other songs have had a similar effect on me. Danny Boy. Shenandoah. Fiddler’s Green. Nimrod from the Enigma Variations. Ashokan Farewell. There’s another song that is my kryptonite, which I’ll let you know about in a minute. Lately I wondered why songs like these had such a strong effect on me. It turns out that people have experienced this response to music for a very long time, and it was the subject in discovering the concept of “nostalgia.”

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Good Cars for Tall People from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show

Ford Fiesta

For many people, Detroit’s NAIAS is an opportunity to check out nice rides or shop for their next vehicle. Not so, for me. I’m a big man on a big mission, and once again I suffered cramped legs, dinged kneecaps, and bashed heads all in the name of giving other tall people an idea of what vehicle might make sense for them.

I didn’t get to sit in every vehicle at the show. The makes that were most neglected were luxury cars. With what time I had I wanted to get to the vehicles with prices that I and the average tall person would see as more reasonable. But hey, if Mercedes Benz wants me to take one of their cars home for some testing, I’m available.

The vehicles listed below are ones that I sat in and felt comfortable, along with a few that I didn’t feel very comfortable in. I was paying attention to leg room, head room, and space around the pedals. My objective here is to give you test-drive ideas. The driving experience, especially long term, can’t be totally predicted just by sitting in a car. But sitting in a vehicle can help me come up with a few that you could try.

I also threw in some examples of those that really didn’t work at the end of the post.

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2015 Chevrolet Malibu Review

2015 Chevrolet Malibu

Comfort is king when it comes to being a big man, and I’ve recently found that comfort behind the wheel of a 2015 Chevrolet Malibu.

Driving this vehicle has been mostly a pleasure. What the Malibu lacks in off-the-line and highway lane-change power it makes up in with a quiet, smooth and comfortable ride. Yet while it’s comfortable for tall drivers, this car effectively seats three with me behind the wheel.

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My last car would be…

Lincoln MKZ

“The next car that I buy will be my last one,” dad said to me recently.

While he’s been making morbid statements for nearly as long as I can remember, this one gave me pause for thought. If you knew that the next car you bought would be your last, what would you buy?

We talked through some of dad’s choices. There is the Mustang, because it was the first car he’d ever drove and thought it fitting to be the last. Or there is the Cadillac, the pinnacle car of America’s middle class. He remembered how special it was when his dad brought one home. Or perhaps it’d be a pickup, since he’s never owned one but considered it all the time.

He tells me that he’s still driving the Ford Galaxie that was sold out from under him in his dreams.

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Big Guy Test Drive: 2016 Chevrolet Traverse Review

2016 Chevrolet Traverse

I’ve been behind a Chevy Traverse many times and wondered, “With a butt that big, why did they put such small lights on it?”

Well, I thought that the Traverse deserved a more in-depth review than that, and so I took one for a test-drive. Based on what my wife and I are in search of, I’ve been looking at a couple of factors for our future SUV: Does it fit me; will it carry our junk on road trips; will it carry other people and their junk, and do I actually enjoy looking at and driving it.

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Detroit Catholic Churches: St. Aloysius

St. Aloysius Church Detroit

As we were driving to Comerica Park, I could have sworn that I saw a church. When I later began working in downtown Detroit, I’d learn that what I’d seen in a blur was St. Aloysius, pressed between other buildings on the block at Washington and State.

St. Al’s website has a fairly extensive history of the church, some of which I’ll quote here. Given it’s location downtown, St. Aloysius is one of a couple of churches near the city center that’s well-situated for a lunch-hour mass or prayer for those who work nearby.

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Need reading inspiration? Check out my list

I’ve stepped up my reading game. I blame narrative non-fiction.

It started a couple of years ago when I read The Worst Hard Time, Timothy Egan’s National Book Award winner about the families that remained in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas during the Dust Bowl. It was the first time I’d read non-fiction outside of a college course setting, and it was so exhilarating that we took a road trip that passed through locations mentioned in the book.

Now I’m devouring as much quality non-fiction as I can, and I’m sharing the decent ones with you. If you’re in need of a good book to read, check out my reading list. I’ll be keeping it updated as I finish more books.


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I got married!

Niagara Falls

To all of my fervent fans (hi Mom!), it must have been difficult without seeing my work for so long. Well, I have a perfectly good explanation. On June 6th, 2015, the anniversary of D-Day, I married Crystal Mumby at St. Edward on the Lake in Lakeport, MI.

We were blessed with very fair weather for our outdoor reception, and drove straight to Niagara Falls for a mini-moon before crawling reluctantly back into reality.

The lead-up and aftermath of the wedding has kept me far from writing on this blog, but I’m back in action and ready to put you back on the edge of your seat with writing about Detroit, Michigan, cars and history.

I’ll start with this – if you happen to go to Niagara Falls for your honeymoon, stay at the Marriott Gateway on the Falls and you could be treated to this view!

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