The Ghost of Fort Morgan.

It was a dark and stormy morning.

No really – it actually was.

We went down to the beach last weekend to visit the Chris’ Aunt Kitty and Uncle Leo (famous around here for many things, such as Toenail Art and Crochet Shorts.) It was actually a month after our planned trip to visit them, but it had gotten washed out – literally – by the prediction of a bad weekend storm.

So of course, it’d be raining on the rain check weekend as well.

But I had high hopes. There was just a tiny strip of rain that looked like it would be directly over their house for hours. Which meant that if we got out for adventure, we’d escape the rain!

Fort Morgan Historical Site is on our list of Alabama History field trips, but we’re not chronologically there yet. We’re still hanging out somewhere in the murky in-between of dinosaurs and Native Americans, and I really don’t want to mess up the proper order of things.

But, Fort Morgan was semi-nearby. And there was NO rain there – for sure! And I’d heard it was a fun place to photograph. So I ditched my orderly morals and packed up the children and Aunt Kitty to haul down the 25 mile tiny strip of land between gulf and bay, between us and adventure.

We arrived and I was immediately filled with excitement. I haven’t been to Fort Morgan since I was 9, and all I remember was being bored and wishing I was at the beach instead.

I was a stupid 9 year old.

To get into the fort, you have to walk through a bricked tunnel in the hillside:

Yes, those are my children descending into the fort alone…way more excited about this adventure than their mother at their age.




Then there’s a small courtyard with creepy windows that almost certainly had ghosts fleeting behind them,


Then you walk through this entrance to the actual fort.


Fort Morgan was completed in 1834, after the War of 1812 revealed weaknesses of protecting our shores from naval fleets. It was later commandeered by the Confederate Army during the civil war, and was the site of the Battle of Mobile Bay. It kept being abandoned then reused all the way through World War II, when they trained there to counter the threat of German U-Boats in the Gulf of Mexico.

But you don’t get the feeling that it’s been in use anytime in the past 200 years when walking through its halls.


You do, however, get the feeling that there are a lot of former soldiers that still might reside here.


I’m not opposed to the idea of spirits and ghosts being a real phenomenon, especially since multiple members of my own family have had so many encounters with them. And this seemed like just the kind of place that one would meet a friendly ghost or two.

The fact that it was built in the shape of a Masonry Star (or Pentagram, depending on how you look at it) really adds to its creepiness.

It’s ripe for making National Treasure 3: The Jewels of Alabama. Don’t you think?
Nick Cage could ROCK THIS PLACE.

Shadows and light intermixed at every turn, some rooms awash with windows, and some rooms dank and completely dark.



Steep stairs, dead ends, chained rooms, and giant artillery shells all give you the feeling that you’re not really supposed to be here, but yet, here you stand, exploring an entirely uncivilized relic of the past.




It didn’t take long for the rain to catch up with us – that tiny streak over Kitty and Leo’s house transformed into a soaking, wide rain.


The 40 million bricks that make up Fort Morgan provided ample covering from the elements, so we explored the endless hallways.



At a break in the storms, we climbed atop the fort to look around.



The kids loved imagining what it would have been like to be a sentry,


As well as artillerymen (and women.)



Before we left, we walked a hundred feet or so out to the end of the world – the southern tip of Fort Morgan, and therefore the southern tip of Alabama.


For a moment, we forgot the wars, the fighting, the deaths, and the total seriousness of where we were, and it just felt like we were at another part of our state’s beautiful beaches.


The deluge once again caught up with us, and left us completely soaked before we made it back to the car.

Later that afternoon, when we were snugly inside and I was editing my photos, I suddenly got that eerie feeling again – like there was so much history walking quietly through those hallways alongside us.

And literally, the next photo I came to was this one.


And I almost jumped out of my skin.

I recognized the profile in the window immediately – it was my son. His shoulders and head were sticking up out of that window ledge – a place he couldn’t have been – and that I knew he hadn’t been. But it looked just like him!


(Not to mention the creepy face on the wall next to him, but I wasn’t nearly as concerned about that.)


I started to slowly zoom in, trying to figure out what was going on. It was still Noah – whatever it was.


(In case only a mother can see it, here it is with an inserted photo of him that I took the same day. Can you see him now?)


I zoomed all the way in, feeling all kinds of creepiness run through my spine…

Only to find that it was just a jut-out in the bricks. In the perfect shape to be an optical illusion of Noah, when seen far away.


So what’s the moral of this story?

Explore. Go on adventures. Your kid’s ghost is also out there somewhere. But make sure you have a hi-res camera so that you don’t freak the freak out for the rest of your life when you see it.

Into the Mountains We Go.

As a refresher, my family – parents, brothers, sister-in-law, nephew and nieces take a family trip every year rather than giving each other gifts. 2016 was our twelfth trip.

As I mentioned earlier, we stayed in a “resort neighborhood” in the mountains for this year’s family vacation. It was in the mountains in North Georgia, a beautiful area to see, but a terrible area to navigate. There were so many shockingly long dirt roads that I began to actually praise ALDOT, our own inept and corrupt department of transportation.

Oh – and North Georgia is at times exactly how they describe Kenneth Parcell’s hometown in 30 Rock.

IMG_5069As excited as I was about this knife shop, the missing apostrophe IN MY OWN NAME hurt.

The “resort”, and I call it that both in truth and because they really REALLY like quotation marks there,

IMG_5096Where is Bill Pound’s other unnecessary quotation mark?!

was actually a gigantic neighborhood laid out over 5,500 acres that were (and still are) seemingly uninhabitable. The impossibly narrow roads (all 170 miles of them) roll up and down continuously as if someone was shaking out a giant blanket in the wind. The houses hang off cliffs and are surrounded by deer-filled woods.

It was quite peaceful and beautiful, but was full of quirks.


One day, we took our kids to the resort’s Mini Golf. It had seen better days – Hole 3 had a traffic cone in it, clearly marking its out-of-order status, which was also apparent by its complete lack of carpet.

But we played it anyway. Uneven concrete and all.

Each hole of the Mini Golf was sponsored by a local company or one of the resort’s amenities.

Such as Dottie, Nancy, and Ann’s services:


The hole would be decorated by theme and matching the sponsor, so this particular hole had frogs, all sorts.


Including this Tic-Tac-Toe frog who’d really lost his butt in the game.


The hole for the Corner Store Café definitely made me hungry,


But my favorite hole was the one sponsored by a local attorney.IMG_5083

The signs around the hole were very stoic and professional, clearly marking this as a well-sponsored hole.


But the décor added to the hole itself – they were priceless.

…Deeds sure has a different connotation when it becomes “Deeds.”


And by the time we got to “Appeal”, Chris and I decided that this was meant to be marital advice, not legal advice.


Because what spouse doesn’t appreciate it when you Say “Pleas”?


We did lots of hiking and running, both in and out of the “resort”, both with and without kids. Chris and I got just barely off the beaten path of the resort and, right after finding Ord, friend of Mater’s,


we came across what I was sure held a body

IMG_4964Who knew that Volvo made Chevy Expos?

Another day, the entire family went to Springer Mountain, a one mile trail at the start of the Appalachian Trail. My brother did not tell me that it would be a 7 mile perilous cliffside dirt road to get there, but with a little bit of eye closing and deep breathing, I survived the trip up.

Thankfully, it seemed we had plenty of time to take our hike before the meter maids made it up the road.


The kids, all adept hikers, did fantastic going up the mountain.



We made it to the top and celebrated by resting, drinking water, taking in the view,


And of course, climbing trees.




On the way home from that adventure, because it clearly wasn’t enough, we took an even longer frightening dirt road (aptly named Winding Stair Gap Road) and visited Amicalola Falls, which was okay from the top,



but then tempted you with 600 steps down to see the actual view.


We managed to cajole the children back up 200 stairs, then sent Chris to get the car to retrieve them.



Chris and I snuck away for adventure and intrigue one afternoon, getting lost on dirt roads and trying to find a trail that ended up being closed.


We took part of it anyway, only to read later that it was closed due to high voltage power lines being put in.


Always obey signs, kids.

But we found another trail that was just gorgeous, and ran/walked it together, enjoying all its offerings.


This is why you visit North Georgia.


And of course, due to all the outdoors activity, there was plenty of this.


And this.


Because what is vacation without chill-out time?

Before we left, we ran out back to the delightful woods behind the house to get our annual family photo. Ali was happy to volunteer to be my model for lighting and tripod setup, and I marveled at her total grownup-ness.




Of course, there had to be a spider on that tree we were going to use. Luckily, we had Pop there to quell all spider fears.


We finally got everyone in place and snapped before any other creepy-crawlies found their way into our scene.


And of course, I grabbed a few cousin shots.

Ali, Princess of Organization and Activities Coordinating,


Eli, Prince of Original Ideas and Holder of All Animal Facts,


Tessa, Princess of Quiet Determination and Winning All The Things,


Noah, Prince of Make-Believe and Matchbox-Car-Road-Making,


And Andi, Princess of Playing Happily With Everyone.


All five of them are AMAZING at the whole cousin thing.


Three Ingredients For Adventure: Ford, Hilton, and Twitter.

We left a night early for our annual family vacation so as to detour for an Alabama History field trip on the way. We planned to stay near the field trip destination, a couple hours north of Birmingham.

Except that, 45 minutes out of town, my car beeped, presented a message telling us we needed service immediately, then flashed a wrench icon at us.

Oh – and also, the gas pedal quit working.

On the interstate.

Chris veered into the right lane as I asked rather frantically, “Is that you slowing down or the car??”

He calmly informed me that the gas pedal was no longer working, and I not-so-calmly informed him to get in the emergency lane, don’t just hang out in the right lane as we quickly quit moving.

He got over while I searched the owner’s manual for the wrench icon. What does the wrench mean? It wasn’t in the first section of dashboard emoji – believe me – I looked at every icon four times. Finally I found a second section where it was listed.

“Powertrain or All Wheel Drive Failure. Contact your nearest dealer immediately.”

I don’t have all wheel drive. Which meant it was a powertrain failure. And I don’t know much about cars, but I know that the powertrain is fairly important to the process of transportation.

My vehicle is less than a year old – we bought it new after the wreck. My internal panicking was high, but I also was slightly comforted that it would be covered under warranty.

Chris was still idling, very slowly, toward the next exit – about a mile ahead. Just in case, because newfangled cars, I suggested that he turn the car off and back on again – a reboot – just to make sure this wasn’t computer error.

He said no. He did not want to risk it not turning back on with us on the side of the interstate.

So I called the Ford emergency number, they arranged a tow truck to meet us and take my car to the nearest dealership (already closed and in the middle of nowhere), and we continued to idle, quite nervously, up the exit ramp, across the street, and into the gas station parking lot.

Idling can take you farther than you think.

My bladder was not feeling well from the stress, so I ran into the gas station. When I came back out, Chris had finally rebooted the car.

The error light was gone, and it was running fine.

As I bit my lip to not say ‘I told you so’, I suggested we call my dad (and automobile and in particular Ford expert), get his opinion, and please please please keep going. I knew there was no rental car company open in the rural area we were in, and if we got towed to the Ford dealership, then what were we to do?

Chris and Dad agreed, after a minute of me stressedly insisting, that we could keep going.

Meanwhile, I Googled the problem and found that it was quite a common Ford failure on all models from 2008-2016. The Electronic Throttle Body – the thing that tells the engine how hard you’re hitting the gas – had malfunctioned. Which seems like something Ford would want to recall – an easy fix to prevent cars from losing their ability to drive on the interstate – but alas, Ford apparently thinks otherwise.

We kept driving, and the farther we went, the less my soul was consumed with anxiety. But it was dark now, so I really didn’t want to experience that error again.

Just as I got cozy with the idea that we were going to make it to our destination, it happened again.

This time, Chris calmly pulled over to the emergency lane and rebooted the car.

Seven miles later, car failure #3.

We were an hour away from our final destination, but neither of us wanted to experience this any longer. We were close to another city, Fort Payne, that we knew had a hotel and a Ford Dealership.

So I called Hilton to see if they would be so kind as to move our Hampton reservation from Kimball to Fort Payne. After a few transfers, a couple holds, and multiple retellings of my sad, sad story, they agreed. Without fee, they cancelled my first reservation and got me a closer one.

I was so gushing with thankfulness for the kindness of Hilton that I agreed to talk to their vacation salesman at the end of the call. I really should have known better – this was no time to be planning a vacation or dealing with salesmen – but I even felt kind feelings toward Paris Hilton in that moment.

“Hello Mrs Callahan!! My name is Josh and I would LOVE to tell you how Hilton can give you a deeply discounted vacation!! Only one in fifty callers get to talk to me at the end of their call, so you’re already a winner tonight!!”

That’s one way to describe it…

“Uh, hi, Josh.”

“Now. What prompted you to call Hilton tonight?”

“Well, we’re having car troubles – like my car is dying on the interstate over and over, and I needed to move my reservation to a closer city.”

“Oh my goodness! Well that’s just terrible. So let’s talk vacations. First, though, would you consider yourself single, happily married, or co-habitating?”


Happily, right?”

“Of course.”

“You’re saying that because he’s sitting next to you?”

My stress was starting to bleed away my Hilton Love…

“We’re VERY HAPPY, okay Josh? But right now we’re just trying to make it to the next exit!!”

“Wow. Okay, Rachel. What kind of car do you have so I don’t get one?”

“A Ford Flex. It’s a fantastic car except for right now.”

“And except for being a Ford, amiright?” (Salesman Chuckle)

I was not in the mood.


“I was just messing with you, Rachel. Now. Let’s talk vacations. I’m going to give you four destinations, and you tell me which interests you the most. Las Vegas, New Orleans, San Francisco, or Hawaii?”

“You know what Josh there’s no way I can make vacation decisions right now. I’m just praying we make it to Fort Payne. I’ll talk to you some other time.”

Maybe it was my tone, or maybe it was my complete lack of humor at his jokes, but Josh got the hint.

“Okay Rachel. Have a great night!”

Right after I dumped Josh, we had failure #4. Thank God Josh wasn’t along for that – I might’ve veered off my kid-appropriate curse word list.

When we finally made it safely to the hotel, I tweeted a simple tweet about our adventure.

IMG_5135Several people replied to it, I had a couple short conversations, then I put my phone away for the night.

The next morning, Chris had my Flex at the dealership at 6:50am. It was a large franchise (AutoNation) and had a great website where he had been able to get an appointment the night before. We needed to leave Fort Payne by 10am to get to our field trip on time, and I wasn’t feeling too optimistic about that happening – especially after reading that this problem was so widespread that the part was often on severe backorder.

But AutoNation had us covered. They had the part, they’d just replaced someone else’s the day before, they agreed it was definitely the problem, and they had my car fixed, under warranty, before 9am.

Gratefulness again abounded in my heart – I would’ve talked to their vacation salesman for days.

Chris returned victoriously, and we packed up. He mentioned offhandedly, “Did you delete your tweet from last night?”

“No – why?”

“Well this morning, I could see all the replies to it, but the original tweet was gone.”

All of a sudden the world felt creepy, as if the big brothers at Twitter and Ford were looking over my shoulder and had determined that they didn’t want my 140 character memo in the world.

After confirming that my tweet had definitely vanished, I tweeted again.


Chris and I checked for my tweet multiple times as did a few followers – it was clearly gone. I didn’t want to believe they’d deleted it – I work hard at being an Anti-Conspiracy-Theorist in all areas of life.

We left for our journey, and had no more car problems the rest of the trip.

48 hours later, I got another reply to the original tweet, so I went back and checked, and…the tweet had been returned to my timeline.

I felt another chill of conspiracy.

…So they decided to delete my tweet until it was no longer new enough to show up in most people’s tweet streams, then they put it back? How much did Ford pay Twitter for this concierge censoring service?

I’m an open fan of Twitter and Ford – I’m a loyal Twitter user and evangelist, and have written multiple blog posts about my Ford Flexes and how awesome they are. This subtle censoring of my rare negative viewpoint felt a little like I was being accused of being a troll, and this made me irritated.

But I moved on to look at the bright side: at least I had a working car, and I DIDN’T have a discounted Hilton vacation that I would forget to use.