ALLIANCE -- For 85 minutes, an almost childlike excitement took hold of Jim Reinders.
The creator of Carhenge, who turns 90 next month, inched forward in his seat, pressed a pair of paper glasses against his aviator frames and craned his neck -- over and over -- toward the sky.
“I see it! It’s starting to come!” he hollered as the first tiny dot of moon appeared against the blazing sun.
He cursed the scattered clouds when they briefly eclipsed the eclipse. He politely entertained the well-wishers, Carhenge lovers and reporters who interrupted his viewing. And once totality arrived, he joined the few thousand people surrounding his creation in an elated cheer.
Another awestruck silence.
“That is something to see.”
He saved his biggest smile for the end, when the sky skipped nighttime and went straight from dusk to dawn.
“Thank God it’s gonna be light again,” he joked.
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Richard Brant of Carpenter, Wyo., brings the weird as visitors converged on Carhenge Monday to watch the total eclipse.
Monica Hobbs (right) watches the total eclipse at Carhenge near Alliance on Aug. 21. State tourism officials say more than 700,000 people traveled to view the eclipse in the state, with an economic impact of $127 million.
Canadians Richard Lounsbury, his son, Austin, 8, and his girlfriend Stephanie Brey watch the eclipse at Carhenge near Alliance. Among the viewers at Carhenge were Gov. Pete Ricketts.
Sophia Ernstrom and Mars Akselsen, of Denver, Colo., pick a spot as they joined visitors at Carhenge Monday to take in the total eclipse.
Space aliens mingle with visitors Monday to take in the total eclipse at Carhenge in Alliance.
Rhonda Olson and her son, Joseph, 14, of Ham Lake, Minn., take in the eclipse at Carhenge in Alliance Monday.
Visitors take in the eclipse at Carhenge near Alliance on Monday.
A couple who traveled from Canada to view the eclipse at Carhenge Monday react as the event reaches totality.
Jim Reinders, Carhenge creator, watches Monday as the solar eclipse begins. His son, Jim, is behind him.
Carhenge builder Jim Reinders is all smiles for the eclipse.
Carhenge bathed in light Monday morning before the eclipse.
Collette Murray of Boars Pit Barbecue mans a smoker in the Over the Hill Campground adjacent to Carhenge on Sunday. The Alliance restaurant offered beef and pulled pork for sale to hungry eclipse campers.
Jake Perkins of Alliance puts sweet corn on a grill in the Over the Hill Campground north of Carhenge on Sunday.
Traffic flows toward the entrance to Carhenge north of Alliance on Sunday.
Dave Sproat, of Duluth, Minn., and Peg Gould, of Manitou Springs, Colo., work together on a photo at Carhenge on Sunday.
Luisa Prats (left) gets photo-bombed by her sister Mary Prats, as the California and Colorado residents took in the sights at Carhenge on Sunday after traveling to Alliance for Monday's solar eclipse.
Richard and Norma Bruer stake out a spot to photograph Monday's total solar eclipse at Carhenge on Sunday. The couple traveled to Alliance from North Dakota.
Reinders swears he didn’t know about the 2017 total solar eclipse when he built this otherworldly automotive monument 30 years ago. But Monday, the sun, the moon and the stars aligned to make Carhenge’s view the jewel of Nebraska.
While clouds and question marks in the forecast chased away some would-be visitors, those who found unobstructed views experienced a once-in-a-lifetime event.
“That was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen,” said Margot Ricketts, who watched the eclipse with her father, the governor.
“My friends are going to be really jealous. They’re all in class right now.”
She leaves for college next month.
Reinders soaked in the eclipse surrounded by family. They hold a reunion every two years or so, but the last one at Carhenge was in 1987, the year they built the place in honor of Reinders’ father.
Jim Reinders’ own son, also named Jim, remembers working the hard dirt in the heat. Buried under each car at Carhenge is a mound of beer cans and bottles, the family’s leftovers from each day’s work.
The family has a joke: “Carhenge was built with blood, sweat and beers.”
As his dad scoots forward in his camping chair for a better view, the younger Jim Reinders beams a smile.
“He’s reveling in it today.”
Reach the writer at 402-473-7234 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @zachami.