Category Archives: Nature

A Matter of Perspective

This entry won’t be about a specific adventure, but more a comment on what we’ve been finding on this tour.  No surprise, a lot has to do with attitude.  The same coffee mug can be looked at by a group of friends; and one might find it lovely, another useful, another artistic… and still another, deformed, too large, etc.  And yet:  same coffee mug!

When I go on an adventure, I never expect anything, but I do anticipate some things and know other things.   For example:  I knew that Jane and I would have a good time on this tour.  How could we not?  We both enjoy meeting new friends, having adventures, sharing music, and seeing unusual things.  So, I anticipated a good time, and — with only a few days left before this tour’s end — I haven’t been disappointed.  Beyond that, I had no expectations.
Ocean_04 wJane Ocean_05 wSue2

Grandma Prisbey’s Bottle Village, which I wrote about earlier, was something I’d been wanting to see for DECADES.  I knew that time had taken its toll, and that things once whole would now be broken; but I also anticipated that the spirit of Grandma Prisbey would shine through no matter what.  Beyond that, I had no expectations.  The actual experience we had will stick with me now, forever and always!

We will write a separate post about the friends and family who have showered us with kindness on this trip.  Certainly we had no expectations other than that we’d get to catch up with them; the excellent conversations and the care they’ve shown us have far exceeded anything we might have imagined, anyways.

With our gigs (which we haven’t written about yet!), it’s definitely best not to have expectations.  Truly, each gig is a “ya just never know” experience:  Who will be in the audience?  Will the sound equipment work?  Will they like what you bring them?  I always anticipate a good time, and in general that’s what happens.  Some shows are more “successful” than others, emotionally and/or financially — but each show gives you new information to work with, which comes in handy in the future.  That’s been my experience.

This tour included two very special house concerts, amongst other shows, and both were lovely, moving, heartening, etc., beyond even my anticipation (which was simply that both we, our hosts, and our audiences, would enjoy ourselves).

In particular, we had a special show hosted by the “other Sue Fink“:  she and I had been corresponding since approx. 2003, but had never met; she’s a singer, songwriter, vocal instructor, and chorale director.   We found we had similar senses of humor, and although we’d talked about having a “Sue Fink Squared” show sometime, it was just a pipe dream until we decided to tour  Los Angeles.  Sue and her partner, Jane, hosted Jane Godfrey and me, in their home, and it truly blew my mind:   it was beyond anything I could’ve imagined!

Sue Fink and Sue Fink!
Sue Fink and Sue Fink!


Jane, Jane, Sue, and Sue!

So much more I want to say, but the hour is very late.  I knew our country was beautiful, but I didn’t realize how continuous this beauty is.  More than once, as we drove along, we broke out singing “America the Beautiful” in earnest.  The ocean, desert, rocky craggy mountains and tree-filled mountains… as we drove along, the landscape changed and changed again, filling us with wonder.

Trees in Alpine, AZ
Trees in Alpine, AZ

The tour’s not over yet — not until after this weekend!  So, I’ll anticipate more excellent adventures, but without expectations … and, ya just never know what’s coming next!


Dreams, the Passage of Time: Grandma Prisbey’s Bottle Village

I’m know I’m posting this adventure out of order, but I just couldn’t wait.  Time is moving so quickly for us, as it does for all travelers:  every day is a new adventure, and by the time you finish one you’re on to the next, often before you’ve had time to soak it all in, contemplate what it all means.  I don’t want to lose the feelings I had at this particular place.

Actually, Grandma Prisbey’s Bottle Village was the impetus for this tour.  Earlier this year, I was reminded of an article I’d read (when in my 20s) in an airplane magazine, about a woman who’d built a “village” entirely out of bottles and other found objects — initially to house her 17,000 pencil collection.   She started building in her 50s.  The walks were mosiac; the structures, a mixture of bottles collected at dumps, cement, and whimsy.  She gave tours for a quarter and if she felt like it, she’d sing and play racy songs for you at the end.  When I’d initially read this, I thought:  I must meet her! (for she was still alive at the time)  But like many things, it got lost in my “to do” list and never happened.

But now, with renewed interest, I was able to find the Bottle Village online.  Thresie (Tressa) Luella Schafer (aka “Grandma Prisbey”) was born in 1896, 1 of 8 children; she married at 15, had 7 children (she outlived all but one), two husbands, and died at age 92 in 1988.   She didn’t start building the village until she was nearly 60.  While the Village was maintained, in 1994 a 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit the area, destroying or damaging much of the village.  And although the society received FEMA funding to rebuild, a local congressman protested this, calling it a “waste,” so the funding was rescinded.  Now it sits in disrepair, but is still a California State Historical Landmark, amongst other designations, and is open to the public for limited touring.  All this, and more, can be found on the website’s timeline.

BV_Jane01 BV_Jane02

Once I knew we’d definitely be in the area, I went about securing a tour date.  Turned out not to be as easy as I’d hoped:  run by a limited number of volunteers, the tour dates didn’t meet our needs.  However, a very nice volunteer, Katherine, agreed to meet us at a mutually convenient time and let us have a “self-guided” tour.  I was ecstatic!  Karen (my friend and our host), Jane, and I met Kathleen on 9/17 at 11am.  BV_Sue01    The village is in a residential area, just a little bit of magic tucked into the lazy hazy ‘burbs!

I hope you’ll take the time to check out these pictures of the Village before the earthquake hit, because they’re stunning:  The pictures on our site are taken by Jane and me, and personally I think they’re equally stunning but totally different:  before and after pics.  Our pictures show the ravages of time and nature.  Earthquakes take their toll, as does lack of funding.  Volunteers meticulously collected the bottles from broken buildings and categorized them, should they ever be able to re-build:

BV_Sue03 BV_Sue30

It was a very hot day, and other than us, not a soul around.  You could see the artistry in disrepair; but that had nothing to do with the spirit of the place.  The whimsical doll heads on sticks:  BV_Sue20

The “Spring Garden”:  BV_Jane14

Here’s one I almost forgot to add.  Under a board, on the ground, Katherine showed us some photos that were ensconced in the cement.  Of Grandma Prisbey’s  children, perhaps?

Some of the pencils that Grandma Prisbey loved can still be seen in the ruins of the Round House (see below).  Also, note how the sunlight streams in through the bottles, like a stained glass effect:

BV_Sue14 BV_Sue15 BV_Sue16

Here are a few photos from the damaged Fluorescent Tube Fountain. Doesn’t it look like the horses (and ducks) are barreling right out of the cement?

BV_Sue21 Horse01 BV_Sue21 Horse02

BV_Sue22 Duck01 BV_Sue22 Duck02

The “Leaning Tower of Bottle Village”:
BV_Sue26 BV_Jane08

A little bit of the ceramic walkways:
BV_Jane04 BV_Jane07 BV_Sue06 marbles BV_Sue23 MickeyGuitar

Just a few of my favorites, showing both the ruins and the continuing life going on around them:
BV_Sue28 Absolutely BV_Sue29 BV_Sue18 BV_Sue24 OldNew

A picture of Jane, our lovely guide Katherine (who brought us lemonade in jars!), and my friend Karen — we’ve been friends for over 30 years:
BV_Sue19 JKK group

And just a few more.
BV_Jane17 BV_Jane19 SueJane BV_Jane16 BV_Jane17 SueGP

What’s so remarkable to me is that I’d had this village in my head for over 30 years, and now, although it’s not in the same shape as it once was — but what is? — seeing it was not a disappointment, it was a statement on time, art, memories, spirit, and friendship.


Please check out the links to the Village, above, and here’s one last link in case you’d like to get involved, or make a donation, to keep this dream viable and available to the public:

Wild in the Suburbs

To me, one of the joys of traveling to regions unfamiliar, is finding out things about a particular area; often things that never crossed my mind because they are so far out of my experience.  In the case of Reno, NV, it was this:



RenoHorses_02” WILD, WILD HORSES”

…couldn’t drag me away…etc.  These pictures were taken by Sue’s, and now my friend, Darlynne.

Darlynne and Sue
Darlynne and Sue

Sue and I took an evening walk.  And since ya just never know,


we were hoping for a wild horse encounter.  But, alas, not a trace.  No, that’s not true – we were dodging more than traces of the four-legged visitors; in the form of road apples (AKA horse poop).  Because of the high standards of this blog, we chose not to document the aforementioned evidence.

As you can see below, we do have documentation of their recent presence.  Those are hoof prints in the dirt.

Hoof prints
Hoof prints

According to Darlynne and Paul, the horses come down from the mountains in search of food and water.  They do some damage to the vegetation in the neighborhoods but are not particularly threatening in other ways.  It is a concern, though, as they run the risk of getting hit by a car or otherwise causing an accident.  And, although, it is not advised, some people feed the horses; causing further, unsafe dependence on humans.

It would have been a magical experience to actually have seen the wild horses in the neighborhood, but it was fascinating to see pictures and hear about it from Darlynne and Paul.

Now every time I sing “Wish I Were a Cowgirl” I’m going to think about these beautiful Mustangs.

Here’s a link to a recent AP article about the horses:

And this from University of Nevada, Reno:

Colorado: Part 1, Red Rocks Amphitheatre!

We left St. Louis on 9/6, spent a blessedly uneventful night in Hays, KS, then drove in to Colorado, where we stayed with Jane’s brother Rich and his lovely wife Heidi.

Jane, Rich, and Heidi at Red Rocks
Jane, Rich, and Heidi at Red Rocks

The first night there, I met up with dear friend Nancy Walker (formerly with Sons of the Never Wrong; she moved to NY, and last year, to CO).   Suffice to say that there’s nothing like reconnecting with old friends and catching up, and picking up right where you left off.  I can’t believe I forgot to take a picture!   Nancy looks great, is happy, and loves her new home.  So glad we were able to meet!

The next day, Jane and I followed Rich and Heidi up to Red Rocks Amphitheatre — you’ll never guess what color the mountain rocks are! 🙂

RedRocks 9-8-14

Here is what the amphitheatre looks like:

RedRocks_Stage 9-8-14  RedRocksStage_02 9-8-14

Amazing to see those red rocks, the long rows of seats, the little exercisers working out on the steps… and down below, the massive stage, blending in with nature, and imagining all the amazing artists who’ve played there, the sun going down, illuminating the rocks… as Jane said, it was awesome in the true sense of the word!

Inside the visitor center, one could see plaques with naming all the performers, from Nat King Cole to Igor Stravinsky.  Duke Ellington, Fleetwood Mac, Dan Fogleberg…  An entire wall full of names, from the 1940s to the present.   A heady lineup indeed.  And, on another wall were amazing posters, and pictures of those who’d performed there… including my “boyfriend,” Bruce Springsteen!  (Doesn’t this picture look like he’s patting me on the head? 🙂 )

(doesn't it look like he's patting me on the head?)
photo by Jane Godfrey

Although we were only there for a brief time, I feel as though we’re now part of this history.  I’d love to see a show there some time, but for now must use my imagination.  Definitely worth visiting!

Display at Red Rocks visitor center
Display at Red Rocks visitor center

More info on this venue can be found here.