When we were in Great Britain last month, our first stop was at iconic Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, where a ring of standing stones is set. Its history and purpose have boggled the minds
Our visit to Stonehenge in England earlier this summer.
of archaeologists and visitors for hundreds of years.
No one we met there had ever heard about Nebraska’s Carhenge, and by the confused looks on their faces when I mentioned it, I’m not so sure they didn’t think I was making it up. I’m also convinced they were probably muttering something like “crazy Americans” when we were out of an ear’s reach.
But Carhenge is real. I saw it for the third time last week while on a family road trip with my husband, Steve, and daughter, Meghan.
Carhenge is located three miles north of Alliance on Hwy. 87.
It’s not a place you just sort of stumble across. You have to want to go there. And we wanted to go there. Having just visited the original inspiration a few weeks prior on our three-week vacation in Europe, we couldn’t resist a stop at what is undoubtedly one of Nebraska’s strangest attractions and eagerly drove out of our way to Alliance and then three miles north on Hwy. 87 to see this Nebraska oddity.
Meghan, me and Steve. Stonehenge is visited by about 60,000 people each year.
Carhenge is the artistic creation of Jim Reinders, who built a copy of Stonehenge out of cars in 1987, the summer I graduated from high school. Having lived and studied near Stonehenge in England, Reinders used 39 automobiles placed in the same proportions as Stonehenge, to build this incredible site. According to the Friends of Stonehenge website, “some of the cars are held upright in pits five feet deep, trunk-end down, while other cares are placed to form the arches and welded in place.”
Carhenge was constructed by about 35 members of the Jim Reinders family in the summer of 1987.
The cars are all spray painted gray and the honor of depicting the heel stone goes to a 1962 Cadillac. As the story goes, Reinders built Carhenge one hot sumer as a memorial to his father who had once lived on the farm where the structure now stands. About 35 members of the Reinders family gathered to build Carhenge and it was dedicated during the Summer Solstice in 1987 with champagne, poetry, songs, and a play, according to the website.
Since then, additional sculptures in a “Car Art Reserve” have been built at the site. I’m especially fond of the “Fourd Seasons” inspired by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and constructed only of Ford vehicles and representing Nebraska’s four seasons.
The car art reserve.
Unlike the protected and roped off areas at the original Stonehenge, visitors here can walk among the stacked cars at Carhenge, gaze up at the hubcaps and grills, and even touch the automobiles of yesteryear to confirm they are real. I think the place is amazing! And, I’m not the only one. 60,000 people visit Carhenge every year and it even has a Wikipedia page!
I love how Wikipedia includes sections on structure and history and shows aerials of the two sites side-by-side.
Eventually, Reinders donated the 10 acres of land where Carhenge is located to the Friends of Carhenge who preserved it until 2013. In October of that year, Friends of Carhenge gifted the site to the Citizens of Alliance, Nebraska.
We roamed around the site taking pictures for a while and made a quick stop at the small, one-bathroom stall gift shop near the site. There, we purchased a postcard and mailed it to the folks at Stonehenge in England.
We couldn’t resist sending a postcard from Carhenge to Stonehenge in England.
We count it a real privilege to have visited both Stonehenge and Carhenge within a month of each other. From the sublime to the ridiculous (you be the judge of which is which) — we loved them both.
Have you been to Carhenge? What did you think? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.
Can I tell you something personal? I kissed my wife on the butte. It’s okay, though, because there was no one around to see us, and the scenery was so beautiful, I just had to kiss her. On the butte. And she liked it. I know that joke is a little juvenile, but I work with middle school students who would think that was pretty funny.
Seriously, though, NW Nebraska is a beautiful place filled with interesting land formations like the Sandhills, and yes, buttes. Driving down these long, empty roads together was a special time for us; a chance to connect, have conversation, and just be together.
I think the real winner of the #6 spot here isn’t the kiss per se, rather it is the absolutely amazing scenery that surrounded us in every direction–scenery that created many romantic moments (until Ann began to hum the theme from Little House on the Prairie). The Sandhills and the buttes are unique and not seen many other places. Some of the best views we had were driving along back country gravel roads…open range country with cattle out and about and wandering across the road in front of the car. In fact, we could drive dozens of miles without seeing another person, alone together without cell phones, emails or other distractions of our everyday lives back home.
If you’re driving in Nebraska, make some time and hop on Highway 2 out of Grand Island over to Alliance, or take 61 north out of Ogallala around Lake McConaughy, or drive across the north part of the state on Highway 20, and you’ll treat yourself to some of the most beautiful country you’ve ever seen. If you stick to I-80, you’ll never know all the beauty that Nebraska has to offer, and you’ll miss your opportunity to give your significant other a kiss on the butte.
Note: I’m pretty sure Sir Mix-a-lot would also like Nebraska what with all our big buttes and everything…
I have to admit, I wasn’t thrilled with Nebraska’s new tourism slogan, “Nebraska Nice” when it was introduced a few weeks ago. I felt it lacked a certain something and didn’t capture all it could. “Nice?” Really? I felt the tourism board could have said “Nebraska Swell” or “Nebraska Nifty,” or some other milquetoast word like that and captured the same idea. But then we traveled the state.
At this point, I’m pretty sure you’re wondering why anyone would tour Nebraska. Ann has had some health challenges recently, so we wanted to stay close to home should she need to get back quickly. But we also wanted to take some time, get out of town, and relax. A slow tour of our home state fit the bill perfectly. We never did more than about three or four hours in the car in a day. This slow pace over six days allowed us to do a variety of things, from touring the Golden Spike Tower in North Platte to wading in the water under Smith Falls; from attending a country music concert (Billy Currington!) in a rodeo arena to spending a night in the hotel General Nelson Miles used as his headquarters when he investigated the incident at Wounded Knee. Throughout our trip one thing became clear: Nebraska has some exceptionally nice people, places and things; perhaps the slogan is more on-point than I first realized.
We decided to highlight some of Nebraska’s Nicest from our 2014 trip–nine things, to be exact. We’re calling them “Nebraska’s Nicest Nine.” Over the coming days and weeks, we’ll share those things, beginning with number nine, and working our way up to number one. The list was compiled from the places we traveled this week on our 1,260-mile journey that took us west to North Platte, then off I-80 around Lake McConaughy to Alliance, then to Scottsbluff/Gering, up to Chadron, across Highway 20 to Valentine, and Norfolk, then down through Columbus to home. These nine are the nicest sites, attractions, and people we found on this particular trip off the beaten path–a place definitely worth going.
We’re Steve and Ann Teget. We spent more than two decades in corporate America and public education before Ann’s health and Steve’s aversion to middle school girl drama convinced us to try something new. Now we are making the most of midlife and telling authentic stories about extraordinary travel. And yes, we send ourselves postcards.