Traveling to the Desert — Day One


December 31.

Heading west from Wisconsin.

Driving to the desert.


100 miles done, 1700 to go.

Crossing the Mississippi River at Dubuque, Iowa

River is icy, not frozen.


200 miles done, 1600 miles to go.

Iowa farm

Minimalist. Lines.


300 miles done, 1500 miles to go. break in travel for a hometown visit

crossing the Mississippi again, this time into Illinois

river is high on December 31st after unprecedented winter rains

much of Quincy is built high on the bluffs, natural flood protection


the bridge of my childhood travels

crossing this bridge always meant some version of travel adventure — a visit with family who across the river in Missouri or Iowa, or a weekend trip to St. Louis (the big city)


Since driving and arriving are the priority for this trip, all photos are drive by. And on the first leg of the journey, all shots are taken through winter-slushed windows.

Hipstamatic filters set on random (but still available for some post processing when desired) and my iPhone add a sense of photo adventure with a modicum of control.

The Bridge – Photo Heart Connection

Savanna-Sabula Bridge III

Savanna-Sabula Bridge © 2012 Bo Mackison

 There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning. ~ Thornton Wilder

When I decide upon my photograph for my monthly Photo-Heart Connection entry, it is often because there is a story connected with it. This month’s photograph follows the pattern.

The Savanna-Sabula Bridge crosses the Mississippi River and connects the island city of Sabula, Iowa to the river hugging town of Savanna, Illinois. I’ve lived in the Midwest all of my life, and have spent many a day traveling the roads that border the Mississippi, but until I crossed this lovely bridge, I never knew there was an “island city” in Iowa. I think of farmland and cornfields when I think of Iowa, not island cities. And certainly not island cities with the character of Sabula.

First, the bridge spans the Mississippi River, then crosses Sheepshead Bay, and manages to find enough land for the bridge supports as it crosses Israel Day Lake, Town Lake, and Dog Wood Lake. Finally we reached the small island-city of Sabula – we were on solid land, for a while.

Sabula has the BEST ice cream sundae I have ever had – and I come from the Dairy State and have had more than my share of ice cream sundaes. The Korner Ice Cream Shop, a tiny walk up, is easy to find. It comes into view just as you enter town from the bridge.

Then we drove the river-side streets of Sabula – old mansions with sit-down-and-rest-awhile-porches, widow’s walks, views of the river life. I imagine in earlier years,, these were quite the places to visit during the warm summer months.

And there’s more. Driving out-of-town toward mainland Iowa, we crossed one more lake, Sabula Lake. And we saw a flock of Great American Pelicans – probably 200 birds, all floating closely together as they churned the waters with their webbed feet, stirring up their dinner. I’m certain I have never seen a single pelican near the Mississippi River, so this was a big treat indeed. (Lots of photo, too!)

But best of all, I shared all these experiences with Sherpa, my hubby, who is always willing to accompany me on a Sunday camera shoot, always happy to check out a new ice cream shop or cross a new bridge. Even after 36 years!

A road trip, the discovery of new wonderful places, and great company. Ingredients for a perfect photo heart connection.

This is a year-long practice with a community of photographers.  As Kat Sloma explains on her blog, Kat Eye View, “Deepen the connection between your photos and your heart and soul by participating in this monthly review of your images, to find the one that best connects to your heart.” All are welcome.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and the owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.

Pelicans on the Mississippi River

American White Pelicans on the Upper Mississippi

American White Pelicans on the Mississippi River © 2012 Bo Mackison

 The soul has illusions as the bird has wings: it is supported by them. ~ Victor Hugo

This is the first year I have ever seen lotus flowers bloom across half the Mississippi River (in early July near Stoddard Wisconsin) and this past weekend I saw hundreds of American white pelicans brood in a protected area of the Mississippi near the Savanna, Illinois/Sabula, Iowa bridge. Amazing.

I have lived within a hundred miles of the Mississippi River most of my life. I have traveled the river roads from Dubuque, Iowa to St. Louis. Missouri hundreds of times. I’ve walked along the banks in dozens of Mississippi River towns, some only a few blocks in width, wedged on the available land between the river’s edge and the vertical bluffs. A  few of the larger cities crept up those limestone bluffs and then sprawled along the prairie lands – Dubuque, Minneapolis, Keokuk, Quincy, St. Louis are just a few I know well, the ones I have visited since childhood.

I’ve explored the Mississippi at its start in Minnesota, the beginnings of the river only a few steps wide. I’ve explored the Mississippi in Louisiana, boating through the bayous, walking along the Gulf Coast. My family and I took a cruise that left from New Orleans, heading to the Caribbean, and we rocked and rolled through the Mississippi Delta in the dark. Occasionally we’d see lighted platforms from the oil rigs, truly out in the middle of nowhere. Sitting at our dinner table on the cruise, we were mesmerized by the controlled sloshing of our drinks in the clear crystal glasses. The ship would tip towards the starboard, then tip towards the port, like a baby’s cradle, as it followed the channel. A bit disconcerting on our first evening on board. Our waiter told us they were trained to fill the glasses to different levels, dependent on how rough the river was running.

The Mississippi River is the longest river that begins and ends in the United States, if you consider the outpouring of her waters into the Mississippi Delta as part of the country. I never quite realized how attached I was to this river until I began exploring more of the river and the roads and towns that are near her shores.

Love this river in her many forms!

Bo Mackison is a photographer and the owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. This summer, she is taking weekend trips up and down the mighty Mississippi and documenting her short road trips with camera and pen.


Waterlilies on the Mississippi

Waterlilies on The Mississippi River

Waterlilies on The Mississippi River © 2012 Bo Mackison

In mid to late July and early August, the backwater lakes and sloughs are full of floating white water lilies. This waterlily grows in thick patches of lily pads. The flowers of the Fragrant Water Lily are only open three days every year, however a patch of water lilies will have blooms at slightly different times thus extending the bloom viewing season.

This patch of water lilies was in the Stoddard, Wisconsin area of the Upper Mississippi. Three hundred foot high bluffs are on the Minnesota side of the river.

I have quite a few photographs from this trip that have strong horizontal lines, and so I am working on a series of photos with a vintage look. The new series is called “Paper Placemats”, because they remind me of the decorated paper mats so often seen in the tiny diners and cafes along the route. This is #2 in the series. The first photo in the series was  “Tugboat Docked on the Mississippi” posted yesterday.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and the owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She is no longer wondering how the Mississippi River as subject will fit the Seeded Earth theme. Thinking of all the seeds watered by its muddy waters, including these water lilies!

On the Mississippi

Barge Docked on the Mississippi

Barge and Tugboat Docked on the Mississippi © 2012 Bo Mackison

While the river of life glides along smoothly, it remains the same river; only the landscape on either bank seems to change. ~ Max Muller

I have traveled along the river roads running next to the Mississippi all of my life.

I was born in a river town in the middle Mississippi River region and I knew no other life except living near the river. My family home was less than a mile from the bluffs overlooking the river, and I spent many hours watching the river traffic. Yes, we watched the river traffic glide up and down the Mississippi for entertainment. (Obviously before the days of hand held electronic entertainment devices!)

Sundays were special occasions if there was fine weather, although rainy weather didn’t always deter us either. Those tugs pushed the barges no matter the weather. Only a frozen river stopped barge traffic. For Sunday-after-church-family-entertainment we would drive to Lock and Dam #21 (now on the National Register of Historic Places!) and watch the boats and barges navigate the locks. There was a small picnic area and for a real treat we would stop at the only fast food place in town, a Sandy’s drive-thru, a small town predecessor to the McDonald’s franchise.

Or I would walk the three blocks from my high school to the Riverside Park and wait for the barges to pass, tug boats maneuvering the long heavy storage containers through the narrow channel. I’d carry my art book and do quick pencil or charcoal sketches, or write in my journal. (Even as a high-schooler, my life revolved around my art and my writing.)

When I thought about the Mississippi River and its significance as a place in my life, I decided to explore more of the river. I have traveled the river extensively from Dubuque, Iowa to St. Louis, Missouri, and I know the Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri river towns quite well.

This past weekend I headed north on the Great River Road on the Upper Mississippi River. I traveled roads on both sides of the river –  in Wisconsin on the east banks and in Iowa and Minnesota on its western shores. There was so much to see and photograph. Sure I’ll be back for many more visits.

The photograph was taken in Winona, Minnesota, near the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. The museum was closed when I was there, but it looks like a fascinating place to visit. Another reason for a return visit.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and the owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She is vaguely wondering how the Mississippi River as a subject will fit into the Seeded Earth theme.