Lifestyle

After seeing Carhenge in Nebraska, my life is now complete

By Jerry Vaughn, Travel Talk

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Alliance, Neb., to present one of our Experience Alaska Programs to a large group at the local country club.

Nebraska probably doesn’t rise to the top of the list of most desirable places to visit in the late January.

It is definitely cold, pretty desolate as the high plains typically are, and a bit challenging to drive to from Denver. Once there, however, the typical warm Midwestern hospitality makes the inclement weather seem less daunting.

In the afternoon before the Alaska program, my hosts insisted we take a drive out to Carhenge. I vaguely recalled hearing something about it in the past on TV, but really didn’t know what to expect.

Alliance is a pretty small isolated farming community that is a fair distance from anything. It was hard to imagine why something called Carhenge would be so special.

Once there, it is interesting to say the least. Carhenge is a replica of England’s Stonehenge. Instead of being made from stones as the original Stonehenge is, Carhenge is constructed of vintage American cars, all covered with gray spray paint.

Built by farmer Jim Reinders as a memorial to his father, it was dedicated in June 1987 and subsequently featured in National Geographic Magazine as a quirky place to visit.

Thirty-eight cars were used in a circle measuring about 96 feet in diameter. Some cars are held upright in pits 5 feet deep, trunk end down, while arches have been formed by welding cars atop the supporting cars. The heel stone is a 1962 Cadillac.

Three cars were buried at Carhenge. Their “gravestone” is a car that reads: “Here lie three bones of foreign cars. They served our purpose while Detroit slept. Now Detroit is awake and America’s great!”

The residents of Alliance at first wanted to tear down Carhenge. The Nebraska Department of Highways wanted to label it a “junkyard” and erect a big fence around it. But the animosity has long since passed, and signs on the outskirts of town now proudly identify Alliance as the “Home of Carhenge.”

Carhenge has even spawned its own adjacent car-art sculpture park with local visionaries contributing such works as “The Fourd Seasons” (a tribute to wheat) and “The Carnastoga Wagon.”

Wind gusts of 60–80 mph with blowing snow made the drive back to Denver between Scottsbluff and Kearney a real adventure. It definitely made me appreciate the fact we don’t have to shovel the rain in Seattle.

I consider myself pretty well-traveled. Every once in a while however, I am reminded of just how much is out there that I haven’t seen. Carhenge, fortunately, is one I can mark off my list now.

As I was returning home, I thought about a number of the places right here in the West I often wanted to visit but just never got around to going. I’ve never been to the Badlands of South Dakota, Mount Rushmore, Mesa Verde National Park or gone house-boating on Lake Powell, to name a few. I never got to Hell’s Canyon National Recreation Area or the Oregon Shakespeare Festival or white water rafting on the Rogue River.

As much as I love chamber music, I’ve never gotten to the Chamber Music Festival in Port Townsend.

I have decided that since I probably won’t be visiting them all in the near future, I will visit them vicariously through you, the readers.

If you have visited any of these areas (or some other area you found really interesting) please tell me about it in a short essay (no more than 600 words) describing your experience, what impressed you, what (if anything) may have disappointed you and your overall experience with the trip.

E-mail it to me at jvaughn@worldvoyagervacations.com or send it to my attention at the Federal Way Mirror. I will periodically pick one to feature as part of my regular travel column. To show my appreciation, I will take those who submit suitable essays to lunch at one of our local Federal Way eateries. Be sure to include your name, address, phone number and e-mail address with your submission.

One of my favorite quotes is “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page,” which was penned by Augustine. It really is true.

Whether a world away, a state away or a county away, there are some really interesting, entertaining and incredible things to see.

Jerry Vaughn is president of World Voyager Vacations in Federal Way and can be reached at jvaughn@worldvoyagervacations.com.

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See photos

Check out photos of Carhenge online at http://www.carhenge.com/

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