Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring Break '09: Part II (In the rocks, with salt)

Having braved the elements once, I was not about to be subjected to Mother Nature’s spring wrath again.

So the next day, we decided to hit the climate-controlled environment of the Hutchinson Salt Mines, a working salt mine 650 feet underground. To put that into perspective, that is like traveling the height of the St. Louis Arch… except in the opposite direction.

(The weather outside that day turned out to be 70 and sunny.) (Of course.)

But before going underground, we had to watch a safety video detailing exactly what to do should a fire break out while (trapped) in the mine…

“You will each be given a Rescue Breathing Pack to carry,” the narrator began. “In the event of a fire, pull the blue knob, turn the red thingy, yank on the white pin, put the cup around your mouth and pinch your nose closed with the attached paperclip.”

Breathing Pack, got it.

“Then begin to breathe like normal, only through your mouth…” he continued, “and with the reality that you could die if you don’t reach safety within 90 minutes.”

Ninety minutes with four kids? Uh--

“The mouthpiece will grow hot,” he went on, “it may even result in serious burns to your lips. But you will be alive. And isn’t it worth burning your lips off to avoid dying alone near the center of the earth?”


“I thought so. So keep breathing, no matter how badly it hurts. And, make no mistake, it will hurt.”

What the eff kind of vacation--

“I bet you’re wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into [diabolical laugh]”

As a matter of fact…

“Well, relax. In 50 years, we have never had a fire in the salt mines, because salt cannot catch on fire. [This is not entirely true.] Now go grab those rescue packs and meet up by the only working elevator!”

I descended deep into the earth a mining novice, whose most intimate experience with salt involved a shot glass and lime. But after the 45-minute tram tour packed with details about how to extract salt from the earth (and no less than 12 rounds of the “I didn’t like the camel ride” mantra Caroline adopted), I had become a near-expert on the fine art of big-ass drills and multi-lined explosives.

And our fellow tourists had crossed “camel rides” off their to-do lists.

We ended the tram ride at the underground museum. The salt mines are not only home to my third favorite part of a margarita, but they are also home to many government and Hollywood artifacts, as the mines are terrorist and moisture-proof.

But not Caroline-proof.

Rescue packs still intact, we decided to lead our three happy kids and Caroline through the walking portion of the tour.

“Look at that huge saw that can cut through rock!” I said with amazement.

“My helmet is too big,” Caroline lamented, bent over and shaking her head until her helmet dropped to the ground.

Moving on, I tried another display. “Look at this old newspaper from the day Lincoln was shot!”

“Ugh. I can’t read yet,” she said.

“And see this mainframe computer? Dad’s iPhone can hold 600 times as much as this big computer!”

“I want to go home.”

The words “George” and “Clooney” caught my eye. “Oh, guys, look! It’s the costume from ‘Batman’!”

“I didn’t like the camel ride.”

I was just about to point out the shield Brad Pitt carried in “Troy” (I am pretty sure I saw he carved my initials into the back with a tiny heart right above) (he is always doing thoughtful things like that) (don’t tell Angie), when poor, tortured Caroline, cried out from the depths of her being, echoing into the endless caverns for all those visiting to hear,


Heads jerked in our direction, the gift store clerk shot her diet Shasta out her nose. Dave scooped up the claustrophobic diva, and we all made our way to the elevators well before anyone could ask us to leave.

Spring Break ’09 had been a smashing success. Exotic, full of adventure, and, best of all, no one had to see me in a swimming suit.


Sassy Britches said...

Leave it to the little ones to point out the emperor isn't wearing any clothes!

P.S. I LOVED your commentary during the rescue pack monologue!

Liz in Hawktown said...

Too hilarious and not an ordinary day at the salt mines! As for Empress Caroline the Divaesque-what a cutie and how precocious. I bet life would not be nearly as fun without her and her siblings!