My dad came to visit over Memorial Day weekend. If you’re wondering after reading my previous post about what happens whenever my in-laws visit, you’ll be happy to know that my dad’s stay was thankfully uneventful.
The timing of him coming when he did worked out fairly well—I’d hit a stumbling block with one of my stories, because I was trying to describe a place I’d never been to; I’d only seen pictures/video. By coming when he did, he unwittingly volunteered to help me research by traveling 45 minutes north to the town of Hutchinson, KS (aka “Hutch” to the locals) to visit the Kansas Underground Salt Museum, otherwise known as Strataca.
Strataca has been a fully functioning salt mine since the 1920’s, but just opened to the public in 2007. They provide tours of the facility, showing how the salt is mined and how they go about day to day operations. There is also an underground vault and storage area, which was key to our visit. More on that in a minute.
As the name implies, the salt mine is underground. WWAAYY underground. 650 feet, to be exact. And there’s only one way down (or back up, naturally)—a huge elevator that plummets you into total blackness for about 90 seconds. When you step off the elevator you have to remind yourself that you really are underground; the area just off the elevator is just massive. Huge open areas with higher ceilings than you’d expect display the tools they use to cut, drill, and blast into the mine, as well as the vehicles they use to get around, like these Road Warrior-looking monsters:
There was both a train and a tram that would take you around some of the abandoned areas of the mine, which was incredibly cool. The size of it is really astounding; they said they might be in danger of running out of salt to mine in a few hundred years. But, as interesting as it all was, it was not really the true purpose of the visit—as I said earlier, I was doing research:
As I mentioned, the salt mine is also home to an underground vault and storage area. Thousands of things are stored down there, with it’s secure, climate-controlled abandoned mines providing near-perfect conditions for long term storage. And the biggest customer to take advantage of the storage area? Hollywood studios. Some of the items are out on display.
The ‘research’ I was doing was for a story about some nimrod criminals who find themselves at Strataca and realize how much valuable booty is stored inside. And despite being so stupid, they’re also quite arrogant.
They start to get a harebrained idea.
They start to think certain types of people might pay a lot of money for some of the stuff stored down there. Stupidity ensues.
Strataca is a really neat place, and if you ever find yourself in the middle of the country you should certainly take a couple of hours to visit (and, if you have the time, you should also check out Hutch’s other crown jewel, the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center—they have all sorts of rocket/space stuff).
My dad and I walked through the entire mine/museum before heading back to the massive elevator that would take us back up to the surface. While we were waiting, I asked, “So…how would we rob it?”
Research is fun.