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Mar 22, 2021
How did I manage to get there? I flew our Husky into the small Alliance airport and borrowed the airport car (keys on a hook in the unmanned office)--this is trusting, rural Nebraska after all! Did you know that general aviation airports all across the US offer loaner cars to pilots for the price of refilling the fuel tank at return? They're clean. reasonably well-maintained, older cars just shy of "beater class."
Carhenge echoes ancient Stonehenge, but unlike its prototype on the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England, Carhenge has no mysterious past or unknown purpose. It’s not an imitator but is its own American icon. Call it a lesser cartoon and ersatz culture if you will--I admire it for innovation and playfulness within the envelope of technical know-how.
In a wink to ancient Stonehenge, it was dedicated at the summer solstice in 1987. Vintage vehicles from the 50s to the 80s, bolted, fused together, inserted head first into the ground. This is modern Stonehenge as conceived by an engineer to remember his father who loved cars.
Camera at the ready, clouds cooperating, underway at last. It was a strange experience to walk into this wildly weird scene. I clicked my self silly and knew from the start this was going to be a great day filling memory cards. This shot is one of my favorites but hard to choose a best from many good ones. This isn't your usual landscape but definitely a conversation starter about a remote but noteworthy piece of Americana.
Carhenge is the subject of an Emmy nominated PBS film you can watch in its entirety at Vimeo. Hear from Jim Reinders himself, the how and the why of his creation! It's a fascinating exploration of family, public art, community, perseverance, and much more. The test question is: Where does Jim want to be buried? Answer is under the Carhenge photo below.
The city of Alliance acquired Carhenge in 2011 after the Reinders family unsuccessfully sought a willing buyer. The madcap car crowd that travels here aren't big spenders, more the penny souvenir types; but town fathers and local business owners hope to keep the stream of people coming. It’s an iconic part of local history and they’re committed to improve and elaborate the total experience.
The Answer: In an interview Jim Reinders said he knew there were legal issues but maybe his son would mix his cremains with some dry Portland cement so a bit of him could be put into all of the cars' ashtrays! Tongue in cheek probably. It's better than the rumor we heard while there, that Jim wanted to be buried sitting upright behind the wheel of the Heel Stone Cadillac. Oh and BTW, at Stonehenge the Heel Stone is thought to have been part of the rituals of marking astronomical days of great significance. I've always thought it came from the early English for Hail as in greeting the sun rise at the solstices. Whether you think it's ART, aren't humans wonderfully creative--not just now but in prehistoric times?
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