In 2006, Disney and Pixar teamed up to release the animated film “Cars”. Essentially created for a younger audience, the film became an instant classic for all ages. Vehicles serve as all the main characters in the story.
The film follows the adventures of young Lightning McQueen, an up and coming race car whose speed on the track is exceeded only by his ego. There is not a lot of defensive driving that goes on in the film, in fact, just the opposite. On his way to the biggest race of his life, a series of events finds him in an off the beaten path little town called Radiator Springs. The town had seen better days, especially since the construction of a highway has all but dried up traffic through the little community. Lightning gets into a bit of trouble in the town, the kind that traffic school won’t resolve, and find himself in a bit of a jam.
In the town Lightning eventually finds humility, a few friends, and discovers that some things are more important that winning. He eventually helps put Radiator Springs back on the map.
There is a real life “Radiator Springs” and a 32-mile stretch of roadway in southwestern North Dakota that reflects a similar tale. It is here, back in 1989 that a local artist named Gary Greff acted on an idea. The interstate highways were siphoning off traffic from rural roads like the one that went through his hometown of Regent, North Dakota. His vision was to give people a reason to travel off of the beaten path. He then began to create “The Enchanted Highway”.
He put his talent together with tons of scrap metal, and began to build giant sculptures along the two-lane roadway that went from Regent to Interstate 94.
In 1991 he put together some telephone poles, augers and barb wire to create a “Tin Family”, with a 45 foot tall dad, a 44 foot tall mom and a 23 foot tall kid.
In 1993 he erected “Teddy Roosevelt Rides Again” using well pipe. Other creations included “Pheasants in the Prairie”, “Deer Crossing”, “Grasshoppers in the Field” and his fabulous “Geese in Flight”. The latter holds the Guinness record as the World’s Largest Scrap Metal Sculpture. It stands at 154 feet long and 110 feet tall, and uses some 80 tons of metal.
The sculptures have their own pull-off areas to allow for the obligatory family photographs. Greff does the maintenance on the sculptures, and in 2012 the artist opened up his Enchanted Castle motel. There is also a gift shop where, among other things, one can purchase miniature sculptures.
Should you ever head to that part of the country, perhaps to see the Black Hills, Badlands or Mt. Rushmore, you may consider a short side trip on the Enchanted Highway. You may not find Lightning McQueen, Sally, Mater or Doc Hudson there, but you will certainly find some other remarkable creations.