By Judy Rickard, author, Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law, Findhorn Press, 2011
This was not an official stop on our Oregon Trail saga, but it was so fun to find out about Carhenge, and something wacky that resonates with me, that we drove north and saw this auto body homage to Stonehenge, which we have seen in England more than once.
Karin is very accommodating and she had to admit she thought it was fun and she was glad we had made the detour to see Carhenge. It’s not something I would drive all the way to Nebraska to see, but since we were there, why not? I reasoned. And the photos show the striking resemblance to the site it honors.
Carhenge was created in 1987. It consists of the circle of cars, three standing trilithons within the circle, the heel stone, slaughter stone, and two station stones. The Aubrey circle is named after Sir John Aubrey who first recognized the ancient earthworks and great stones as a prehistoric temple in 1648. We learned that it was not until excavations undertaken in the 1920’s that there were found to be holes cut to hold timbers upright at Stonehenge. A total of 56 holes were discovered and named the Aubrey Holes in honor of John Aubrey’s observation.
Jim Reinders, Carhenge creator, experimented with unusual and interesting artistic creations throughout his life. While living in England, he had the opportunity to study the design and purpose of Stonehenge. His desire to copy Stonehenge in physical size and placement came to fruition with the help of many family members.
Thirty-eight automobiles were placed to assume the same proportions as Stonehenge, with the circle measuring approximately 96 feet in diameter. Some autos are held upright in pits five feet deep, trunk end down. Cars placed to form the arches have been welded in place. All are covered with gray spray paint. The honor of depicting the heel stone goes to a 1962 Caddy.
The site for Carhenge is the farm where Reinders’ father used to live. The sculpture or installation was created to honor him and was a family project, a memorial, complete with a dedication on the Summer Solstice in 1987, with champagne, poetry, songs and a play family members wrote.
Carhenge has been preserved by Friends of Carhenge, a local group, which owned and maintained it, but listed it for sale a few years ago. Reinders donated the 10 acres of land where Carhenge is located. There is a paved parking lot, picnic tables, and an educational display board.
We enjoyed talking to the young man in the on-site building, which included displays and snacks and T-shirts and postcards for sale.
He answered the question about the other sculptures on the site. I was confused about the dinosaurs, the flowers, and upended cars – which were in bright colors or not but definitely not part of the Stonehenge replica. We learned that was the Car Art Reserve. One of the first sculptures to be added to it is a sculpture of a spawning salmon created by 29 year-old Canadian Geoff Sandhurst. He won a $2,500 prize and placement of his car art creation at the Reserve.
Reinders’ “Ford Seasons”, comprised only of Fords and inspired by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, suggests the Nebraska landscape’s seasonal changes as wheat is planted, grows, is harvested, and then the field lies barren during a windy winter.
There is no admission charged for visiting Carhenge; however, donations are gladly accepted to assist with preservation and maintenance, the organization in charge says. And they remind this: while Carhenge is open 24/7/365, the preferred times for visiting are during the daylight hours. Absolutely no camping is allowed at the site; however, Alliance offers several overnight accommodation options. Please visit the following link for more information: Alliance Chamber of Commerce.
I had to admit it was like nothing I had ever seen before. Not sure I will ever see anything like it again, either!
After a drive back to our Oregon Trail route, we were on schedule for our next “official” stop, Chimney Rock, but the memory of Carhenge, like a few other detours we took, made the westward journey more enjoyable and memorable.
For more information on Carhenge, go to: http://www.carhenge.com/
or go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carhenge
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