I have a confession to make. About thirty years ago I was in London for several days and didn’t take the short trip outside of town to see Stonehenge.
There were plenty of busses that made the two-hour jaunt every day, but I just didn’t know any better.
Partially due to that regrettable oversight, I have learned to check for important landmarks and historic wonders while traveling.
During one such recent search for nearby noteworthy attractions while driving toward Natural Bridge, Virginia, my darling wife discovered that we were approaching Foamhenge.
There are a few reproductions of Stonehenge scattered around these United States, a replica on the campus of the University of Texas of the Permian Basin in Odessa was built in hopes of bringing visitors into town off of Interstate 20, and in Maryhill, Washington a Stonehenge-like monument memorializes the dead of World War I.
While these, and several others, pay tribute to their prehistoric predecessor, we soon discovered that none compare to Foamhenge in attention to detail or sense of humor.
Created by Mark Cline, this Styrofoam reproduction was painstakingly measured and molded to the exact shapes and sizes of the authentic ancient stones.
Cline was already well known for his innovative, if off beat, creations when he decided to form Foamhenge.
His Enchanted Castle Studio was the stuff of local legend because of the fantastic fiberglass figures they produced.
Dinosaur Kingdom, with a Civil War battle featuring the Union army being attacked by dinosaurs, was a particular favorite in this part of Dixie.
In 2004 inspiration struck and he decided to fashion a perfect model of Stonehenge, checking his designs and measurements with a tour guide from the original in England.
Cline even went so far as to consult a "psychic detective" to advise him on the positioning of the faux stones so that they are astronomically correct.
The finished Foamhenge debuted on April Fool's Day, in an open area atop a hill in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but it never gained the attention it deserved. It was never a part of a developed tourist attraction, and now it stands hidden away just off Highway 11, hidden by the forest behind a locked gate.
By all of the accounts we could find, it is perfectly permissible to enter the property and have a look.
So with the strains of Spinal Tap’s monumental musical montage ringing in our ears, we shimmied under the gate and headed up the primitive path leading toward the hilltop homage to the mysterious druid stone work.
Our research didn’t prepare us for the reality of the creation; the formation of the foam stones standing in the afternoon sun was nearly overwhelming.
Perhaps anchoring twenty feet of painted Styrofoam block into the ground with a pipe is slightly less impressive than prehistoric people dragging fifty thousand pound rocks across twenty-five miles, but we were properly whelmed. These featherweight fabrications were in absolutely no danger of being crushed by a dwarf.
We were spellbound, even mesmerized, as we stood in the center of the ring of rocks, well rock replicas. We turned, rotating like the very planet on which we trod upon, to examine each and every angle and view between the standing stones.
Sadly, people are damaging Foamhenge
The site is marked with signs that Mr. Cline has placed explaining aspects of his creation, and theories about the construction of the original Stonehenge, along with warnings not to tear any souvenir chunks of foam from the “stones” because he might just be watching from the woods.
In our case, no warning was necessary; the thought of the karma brought forth from such a desecration was more than enough to keep any temptation at bay.
In keeping with one of the more far-fetched theories as to how those zany druids managed to move the massive stones, Cline also sculpted a wizard posed with outstretched hands to magically lift the hefty blocks.
The statue stands overseeing his mystic masterpiece.
After observing the creation from Merlin’s point of view, we felt we had seen it all, but it was difficult to bring ourselves to leave. A compelling power prompted us to stay. Finally, we reluctantly made our way back down the trail to the highway.
As we were leaving, a car pulled up and spotted us scooting under the gate. The driver asked, “What’s up there? Is it Foamhenge?” We excitedly answered in the affirmative. There was a definite concern of trespassing on his face when he inquired, “Is it worth it?” So we babbled on about how great it was in an elated attempt to relieve his fears.
Perhaps our enthusiasm was just a tad too intense. We were, after all, still deeply under the influence of the henge’s mystical powers. In any case we, or something else, scared him off. He got in his car and drove away.
As for me, while I still kick myself from time to time for missing a prime opportunity to see Stonehenge while visiting jolly old England, I feel fortunate to have stood among the foamy forms of its lightweight American counterpart.
YOUR TURN: Are you a fan of interesting roadside attractions? What do you think of Foamhenge?
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