painted from our motel balcony overlooking the Mississippi River, near No. 6 lock and dam
painted at home from a photo taken yesterday morning
One wonderful aspect of being retired is our opportunity to be spontaneous. We can take off whenver we get a good idea and the weather looks cooperative. My husband loves to bicycle, and makes ever increasing goals for riding every summer. He rode something like 1,200 miles last season. I, on the other hand, am a slouch. I belong to our local athletic club, but it doesn't take much to convince me that my walk to the library or morning gardening is enough physical activity for the day. I don't accompany him often on rides just because he rides faster and farther than I can. But sometimes we do ride together. This time we decided to revisit one of our favorite areas, southwestern Wisconsin, along the Mississippi River.
We try to drive part of the Great River Road along the Mississippi every year, usually in the fall. Sometimes we get lucky and see the Mississippi Queen steamboat as she makes one of her fall foliage tours down river from St. Paul. We almost always see lots of birds, since must of the area is a wildlife refuge. It was fun this time to see some of it closer on a bike. We parked our car in Onalaska, and rode 15 miles of the 24 mile rails to trails conversion to the village of Trempealeau. That section of the trail has lots of bridges over creeks, marshes, and the Black River, and it runs parallel to an active railroad line, so that we saw and heard trains several times. We had time to get off our bikes so I could get some feeling back into my numb parts, and were rewarded with seeing turtles sunning, tiny fry swarming around their fishy mother, and colorful Baltimore orioles and bluebirds.
Once we arrived at our motel, he was anxious to explore nearby Perrot State Park on his bike, but I needed to recuperate, and wanted do a watercolor sketch. My little Strathmore watercolor journal and the homemade watercolor set I created from in metal cigarette tin worked just fine, though I never seem to be able to recreate the way the coulees stretch into the distance, or the way the water on the river sparkles in the afternoon sun. Note to myself: I could use a better brush for this set. I keep hoping that better materials will compensate for lack of expertise.