Sunday, August 22, 2021

Mosaic Monday #144: Stonehenge, Montana Style

If I told you Montana has a full-size replica of Stonehenge, would you believe me?  And what if I told you it is only 66 miles from my house?  And that we visited it in June?  All true my friends!  Check it out!

We heard about this from a fellow Mountain Ambassador.  Knowing Spousal Unit is from the UK, our friend surmised that we might be intrigued.  Right on!  Adding to the attraction?  The site began as an Air Museum, and houses over two dozen vintage aircraft.  This summer, Spousal Unit began taking flying lessons for his private pilot's license, and has developed a keen interest in airplanes of all types.  It was a no-brainer!

The Stonehenge Air Museum evolved through the dedicated efforts of James E. Smith to collect, restore and fly unique and rare civilian and military aircraft.  A former Marine, teacher, pilot and inventor, Jim, and his daughter, Jeri, traveled to far off places in search of additions to his collection.

New acquisitions would undergo an extensive and meticulous restoration process by skilled craftsmen.  Most of these airplanes are maintained in flyable condition by a full-time aircraft mechanic, and are flown by Jim from his Montana facility.

Recognizing the growing interest by aviation enthusiasts around the world to preserve these increasingly rare machines, and wanting to share his passion for aviation, Jim recently made his remarkable collection open to the public.

My oldest brother is a retired Air Force Colonel, and he has flown many family members, including me, in a Stearman. 

The  picture to the right is notable for two reasons: first, the 1961 Goodyear GA-468 Inflatoplane.  This plane was designed to be used by the military for reconnaissance, or more dramatically, as a rescue vehicle to evacuate agents or downed pilots from hostile territory.  Second, Spousal Unit is taking a picture of the original aviation rule book.  Example: Do not wear spurs when flying.

In the pictures you have seen so far, have you noticed the quality of this hangar?  You could eat a meal off this floor, with no worries whatsoever!

I used to work in manufacturing, and the faint smell of engine oil took me back, like a warm hug from Mom, or the aroma of baking bread.  

Can you see the young man behind the Kittyhawk?  He was our tour guide, and was incredibly informed about the aircraft.  I could show you another 8 aircraft, but I will add only one more.  If you want to see the rest, you need to go!

After the hangar tour, participants drive to another parking lot to access the Stonehenge site.  The tour guide was slightly ahead of us in a golf cart; it turns out he maintains the private golf course in addition to his tour responsibilities!  We opted to walk across the manicured lawns rather than hitch a ride on the cart, and we talked about our memories of the original Stonehenge.  Spousal Unit recalled a trip when he was young, and getting his photograph taken while perched on one of the fallen stones.  At that time, the historical site had no security or formal parking lots or restrictions of any kind.  It also didn't have the crowds it sees today.  So, approaching Montana Stonehenge, across an open field with no one and nothing around it, reminded us of the glory days of the original Stonehenge.

As a dozen of us gathered in the shadow of the towering stones, the guide shared the origins of Montana Stonehenge.  One evening, Jim hosted a dinner party, and as the wine flowed, a guest challenged him to build a half-scale replica of Stonehenge on the golf course.  By the time the party came to an end, Jim had declared his intention to construct a full-scale version.  And here it stands.

The limestone blocks were quarried in Texas, with great care taken to match the original in size and proportion.  I imagine it was quite a sight to see these on flatbed trucks between Texas and Montana!

At the original Stonehenge, on the summer solstice, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone in the north-east part of the horizon, and its first rays shine into the heart of Stonehenge.  In the picture at right, you can see how the Heel Stone (farthest from the camera) lines up with a notch in the distant mountain.  As the sun rises there on the summer solstice, it passes over the top of the Heel Stone and into the center of Montana Stonehenge.

We are so grateful that our friend told us about this quirky museum in a remote corner of Northwest Montana.  I know I speak for Spousal Unit and #1 Son when I write that we thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would recommend it to everyone.  Before we left Montana Stonehenge, we attempted to recreate the picture from Spousal Unit's childhood.  To be fair, he could not remember which fallen stone was the site of the snap, but I don' think it really matters, do you?

**I am camping and comments will be delayed!

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  1. How cool about your own Stonehenge, we had no idea! It's very cool about the flying lesson thing too!

  2. Stonehenge in Montana? Wow, that must be a great point of sightseeing for tourists, isn't!? What a pleasure for you nearby. Or not! Have fun with camping.

    Happy MosaicMonday

  3. ...this sounds like a fun destination. Thanks Angie for hosting the party.

  4. What a find. I love old vintage aircraft and that certainly fills the bill. The Stonehenge thing is also interesting. I visited the original in 1984 or so and it was still kind of quaint. You had to take a train from London and then a bus and then another bus and there were not that many people there as I think visit it today.

  5. what a great place to visit. Both the Stonehenge and the old Aircraft museum. I would love to see them both. And it pleases me that they take such good care of it. :) Thanks for sharing!

  6. What a wonderful place to go and visit,so good to see the old planes restored and cared for.

  7. Love the planes. Excellent - never heard of that Stonehenge. How cool is that?!?

  8. What a wonderful surprise to see a replica of Stonehenge in Montana! My younger brother visited the original in England and security was so strong now with all the visitors it gets now that the viewing area was quite far away from the stones.
    The aircraft museum reminded me of Denver's Wings Over the Rockies. It's so nice to see these marvelous old aircraft preserved and their stories told.
    Hope you had a fun camping trip!

    The aircraft museum remind me of the Wigs Over the Rockies Museum in Denver.

  9. How very interesting, your very own Stonehenge monument. Happy Monday


  10. Looks like it was the perfect little adventure right up your alley. It's nice when someone takes the time to preserve something from the past and then share the joy of that collection with others.

  11. Hello,
    How cool is that, Montana has their own Stonehenge. It is a great looking replica. Love the planes and museum! Take care, have a happy week!

  12. What a marvellous excursion and what interesting finds, Angie. Even better with the Montana Stonehenge is the fact that you can walk amongst the stones - not possible with the original Stonehenge.

  13. Have fun on your camping trip! I love places like this and that Kittyhawk is amazing!

  14. Hi Angie :) What fun. I had no clue there was another Stonehenge!! I have never seen the original one, but there is a lot of folklore around it that plays a part in shaping my spiritual beliefs. Lovely photos of the airplanes too, they're so neat!

  15. Hello Angie. How quirky is that? The air museum looks very interesting and as you pointed out, so very clean!

  16. How fun was that! I'm sure that replica was the exact stone from the 'real thing'! Flying lessons? Wow, you two really do know how to make the most of this chapter of your lives! I am deeply impressed.

  17. Interesting. In Virginia there's a place called Foamhenge and it is a full-size replica made of foam rubber. It started out as a joke.

  18. I didn’t know about Montana Stonehenge! How interesting.

  19. I had no idea there was a stonehenge in Montana...never even heard of it, although I have never been to Montana either! The air museum looks like it was interesting as

  20. What a cool place to visit! And how interesting to have your very own Stonehenge!

  21. It's been so many years since we visited Stonehenge in England that we were able to walk amongst the stones. You found another great spot. You should write a hiking/visiting guide for Montana. :)

  22. Nice shots of the Stonehedge, clean though.

  23. We never did get to see Stonehenge. By all accounts it's not the place it was. I may have to come and see yours Angie. It will be lot quieter. I can take in the aircraft while I'm there.

  24. Hello! A glorious day here in the mountains. I had no idea we had a Stonehenge! I'll have to do some research. Sounds like you are enjoying our late summer. Take care. Kit

  25. Stonehenge, Montana style ... fantastic.
    I like the look of the aircraft museum too.

    All the best Jan


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