BY TAMRA BOLTON | Nov/Dec 2016
Stonehenge, the massive stone circle on the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England, is visited by people from all over the world. They go there for all sorts of reasons: curiosity, wonder and to have a mystical experience.
Estimated to be more than 3,500 years old, Stonehenge is an ancient mystery that has baffled mankind for centuries. While I haven’t visited that venerable monument, I have been fortunate enough to visit its much newer American version — Carhenge.
While Carhenge doesn’t inspire awe in quite the same way as Stonehenge, the quirky testimonial to founder Jim Reinders’ genius leaves a lasting impression. Although I had seen photographs of Carhenge, nothing prepared me for seeing it in person.
I pulled into the neat roadside parking area near Carhenge, located just northwest of the little town of Alliance, Nebraska, and started laughing. It was too incredible! This was absolute genius. It was so unexpected, so extraordinary, I couldn’t help but smile. It made me feel like a kid again.
The massive structure in the shape of Stonehenge is made up of old Ford LTDs, Subarus, pickup trucks, stationwagons, Cadillacs and even an old Gremlin. It is an amazing feat of engineering.
I circled the main columns taking pictures and shaking my head, incredulous that someone has the guts and the ingenuity to tackle such an ambitious project.
Created in 1987 by Jim Reinders, a former Alliance citizen, Carhenge draws thousands of visitors annually. In 2014, USA Today voted it one of the Ten Most Quirky Monuments to visit. It ranked No. 3, just behind Big Tex at Texas State Fair in Dallas and the Longaberger Home Office in Newark, Ohio.
Kevin Howard, the director of the Alliance Visitors Bureau, told me that Reinders had retired to Houston. As a Texan, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of Texas pride.
After wandering in and out of the main circle of vehicles, I visited the additional smaller tributes scattered over the sandy hilltop. I even left my name and a little “Lone Star” on the popular autograph car at the top of the ridge.
I stopped at the visitor’s center, which offers cold water and restrooms, along with fun trinkets, maps and brochures of other attractions in the area.
The staff at the visitor’s center, said that Reinders makes a pilgrimage to Carhenge every other year in June to celebrate summer solstice, just like many do at Stonehenge in England.
It is a fun, tongue-in-cheek festival that livens up tiny Alliance every year. I added attending the festival to my “Do Before I Die List.” It sounds like a great way to celebrate the beginning of summer.
As I headed to my car, I stopped and turned for one last look at Carhenge. I was still smiling. That’s the beauty in Reinders’ monument. Maybe that’s just what Reinders had in mind all along.