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The Best Spot To View The Coming Solar Eclipse Is A Car Lover's Nirvana

Forbes logo Forbes 2017-08-10 Jim Gorzelany, Contributor

<div class="wp-caption alignnone" style="font-size:13px;"><p class="wp-caption-text" style="margin-bottom:1em;padding:0px 0.2em;">Rising from the Sandhills of Nebraska, the monolithic Carhenge affords a truly unique backdrop to a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical experience. (Shutterstock)</p><div></div></div> © Provided by Forbes Media LLC

Rising from the Sandhills of Nebraska, the monolithic Carhenge affords a truly unique backdrop to a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical experience. (Shutterstock)

If you love cars and are eager to view the coming full eclipse of the sun in all of its glory, plan to be on site at the famed Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska at 11:49 am on August 21. Already one of the quirkiest roadside attractions in the U.S., it’s an assemblage of 39 vintage autos set in a circle and having the same proportions as England’s historic Stonehedge. Only instead of being built out of enormous rocks by ancient druids (or aliens, depending on one’s point of view) around 2,500-2,000 BC, the vehicular version was constructed in 1987 by a petroleum engineer-turned-artist named Jim Reinders.

Video: How to protect your eyes while viewing the solar eclipse (provided by CBS News)


Carhenge just happens to be smack dab in the eclipse’s so-called path of totality, a 70-mile-wide swath that runs across the U.S. from Salem, OR to Charleston, SC. It is along this path from which observers will see the skies darken as the sun shrinks, and finally blackens, surrounded by a bright and fiery corona for two or three minutes during which temperatures will drop, birds will become confused, and the stars will shine brightly at mid-day. This will be the first time in 99 years the entire country will be in the path of a total eclipse.

According to the attraction’s official web site, Carhenge “consists of the circle of cars, three standing trilithons within the circle, the heel stone, slaughter stone, and two station stones.” Iconic models represented include a Nash and an AMC Gremlin, with a 1962 Cadillac serving as monument’s heel stone. Also included is a “Car Art Preserve” with sculptures made from cars and parts of cars.

While working in England, Reinders became inspired by the original Stonehenge and decided to build a replica back home as a memorial to his late father. Since using giant stones wasn’t a particularly practical option, Reinders decided to instead construct what would become his legacy from 39 assorted American automobiles, each painted a monolithic grey. Some are sitting head first into five-foot-deep pits, while others are welded in place to form the arches.

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Alliance will be holding parties, concerts, a softball tournament, and a native American powwow. Jim Reinders will reportedly attend the Carhenge festivities, as will Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts, who feels it’s “one of the state’s most mystical sites.”

As is the case with most cities along the path of totality, Alliance is expected to be jam-packed with tourists. Expect a lot of traffic, as anywhere from an estimated 117,000 to 466,000 tourists are expected to descend upon Nebraska’s 468-mile totality streak to catch the big corona. Hotel rooms along the path of totality are nearly impossible to come by, and even the campsites at Nebraska state parks have already been all booked, though additional “primitive” sites (i.e. a patch of land without facilities) have been added on a first-come-first-camp basis.

One more thing: No matter where you might be when the moon passes across the face of the sun, be sure not to stare directly at the sun to avoid damaging your eyes. Viewing it through binoculars, a telescope, or a camera’s viewfinder, will only burn out your retinas that much faster. The only way to safely view a solar eclipse is through special-purpose solar filters, which can be either hand-held or incorporated into so-called “eclipse glasses.” The exception is during that brief period in which the moon fully blots out the sun, if you’re fortunate enough to be viewing within the path of totality.

Of course, if the forecast calls for rain that day, all bets are off.

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