Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Sketching in Cuba

Roberta and I just returned from a sketching trip to Cuba. Cuba is a beautiful island with a proud, heroic history and architecture of many styles spanning centuries.  The Cuban people were very friendly and showed a lot of interest in our sketches.

Havana and Viñales are wonderful places to sketch. We brought our Brompton folding bikes with us and the Bromptons were very handy for getting us around the narrow streets of the old city. Cuba is still emerging from the "Special Period". Many buildings in Havana are in dire need of repair and some have collapsed.  The good news is a lot of those buildings are being repaired. If you are considering a sketching trip to Cuba we suggest getting the assistance of an travel expert. We recommend Cuba Production Services. For more sketches of Cuba, check out Urban Sketcher Jim Richard's wonderful Cuba sketches on his blog.

The following are a sample of our Cuba sketches. Click on the images to make them larger. We will post more sketches on Instagram (@avidorart & @robertaavidor )

Horses tethered to a banyan tree in Viñales (Ken).

The musicians at a Cabaña, a good restaurant (Ken).

The statue of José Marti in the Parque Central (Ken).

There's music everywhere in Havana. 

Motorized cannon in front of the Museo de la Revolución (Ken)
Our favorite musician in one of our favorite paladars (Roberta).
José Marti in Parque Central (Roberta).

Lots of annoying exhaust comes out of these old Russian cars (Roberta).

A street scene in Habana Vieja (Roberta).

Another street scene in Habana Vieja (Roberta).

The lovely, serene Viñales valley (Roberta).

Us in front of the "Granma" depicted by Cuban artist José Fuster.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

We Took Our Full-Sized Bicycles on Amtrak

In our previous car-free. multi-modal trips on Jefferson Lines and Amtrak, Roberta and I have taken our Brompton folding bikes which are treated as luggage. Some of our friends have asked us about bringing full-sized bikes on buses and trains. Sadly, the rules are not as easy for full-sized bikes, but that is starting to change.

Roberta and I had an opportunity to try out the new bike service on Amtrak's Empire Builder on Monday. The cycling advocates, dignitaries were on hand at Union Depot to launch the new service (Star Tribune article here).

Roberta and I have full-sized bikes we use to get around the Twin Cities. Roberta has a stylish Linus bike she got from the Calhoun Cycles, now Perennial Cycles in Minneapolis, and I have a bike built by Lowertown Bike Shop, now located here in Union Depot. It felt really different to wheel our full-sized  bikes through Union Depot to the Amtrak platform. We lifted our bikes up to the baggage at the front of the train and walked back to our car. near the back of the train. The train waits a long time at the MSP stop, so we had plenty of time.

We got off at Red Wing, one of our favorite Amtrak destinations. The platform at Red Wing is not long enough to allow passengers to walk from their car to the baggage car. That may change (there are a lot of improvements in the works for Amtrak service in the Midwest).

For now, if you are planning to take your full-sized bike on the train, it's a good idea to call Amtrak and make sure they have that service at your destination. Be sure to read Amtrak's bike policies.

Dignitaries and bicyclists in the waiting room at Union Depot.

Cyclists put their bikes on the baggage cars on the UD platform. 

One last photo and the journey begins!

Nice, new bike infra on Red Wing's waterfront.

Roberta and her bike on the Cannon Valley Trail.

Roberta's quick sketch of Barn Bluff in her journal.

My journal sketch of Barn Bluff.

Me and the spectacular view atop Barn Bluff.

Mocking on the Mississippi.

New store in town (logo & book by the awesome Kevin Cannon).


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Duluth by Bus & Brompton

We haven't been traveling much in Minnesota this year because we've had to do a lot of family-related travel to NYC and LA. Robert and I are also deep into non-sketching, non-travel projects. Roberta has a new painting studio in the Northern Building and she hopes to be ready to show her recent work at the Saint Paul Art Crawl this Fall. I'm finishing the second book of Bicyclopolis. But, we did manage last month to take a Jefferson Lines bus up to Duluth for four days. We had a lot of fun bicycling and sketching in Canal Park and elsewhere.

Click on the sketches to make them bigger:

Roberta's sketch of the lift bridge and lighthouse.

Canal Park by Roberta.

Roberta's sketch of me and the rocks. The water had turned brown from flooding.

Canal Park attraction.

More rocks by me.

My favorite sketch.

I snapped this photo of my Brompton on the shores of Lake Superior:

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Trip Out West, California & Nevada

Every year about the time Winter tightens its icy grip on Minnesota, Roberta and I visit family living in warmer climes. This year, we boarded a jet plane with our Brompton bikes packed wrapped safely with Roberta's garment bags inside Brompton "B" bags. We prefer traveling by bus and train, but we didn't  have enough time to schedule a leisurely excursion on Amtrak's Southwest Chief as I did in 2014.

Our first stop was San Clemente where we did the following sketches on and around the San Clemente Pier. As always, click on the sketches to make them bigger:

Roberta's awesome sketch of the town around the station & pier.
Another sketch by Roberta of the view of the ocean from the station.

Sketches in my journal from the pier.
Awesome coffee and breakfast at La Gallette Creperie.
The iconic tower on the pier.
After a few days, we took the Metrolink Los Angeles. We took a bike trip to Venice via the Metro "Expo" line and the Ballona Creek Trail. I did this sketch on the train of another bicyclist sitting next to his bike:

We didn't have much time to sketch on the trail, so I took this photo:

Roberta and her Brompton on the trail.
We took a Greyhound bus from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Greyhound has excellent service between the two cities. The cafeteria in the Los Angeles Greyhound station had really tasty Mexican food.

Vegas isn't a great town to bike in, so our daughter chauffeured us around. Fremont is a good place to walk with lots of fun places to sketch outdoors, but the weather was cold and windy. We found a nice coffee shop, The Beat on Fremont with big windows where we did these sketches:

Roberta's sketch of the El Cortez across the street.
Denizens of The Beat.
Page from my journal.
The next day was warmer, so we drove to Red Rock Canyon a really great place to hike and sketch:
My sketch of people taking photos of each other.
Roberta's awesome sketch of Red Rock.
Our vacation came to an end and as we boarded our plane at the airport, we glimpsed (and sketched) an occurrence that reminded us of the saying "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas":
My sketch of the intestinal discomfort of one overindulgent visitor at the departure gate.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Bicycling the Paul Bunyan Trail From Bemidji to Brainerd (Part Two).

In the last post, I wrote about our trip up North via Jefferson Lines, our adventures in Bemidji and our trip down the Paul Bunyan Trail on our Brompton folding bicycles.

Wednesday we woke up at Embracing Pines B&B to the sound of a soft wind whistling in the tall pines. We had a wonderful breakfast while watching the hummingbirds flit about outside the windows:

The breakfast at Embracing Pines B&B.

After breakfast, Roberta finished up the watercolor she started Tuesday:

Roberta painting on  the deck.
Roberta's finished sketch.
We packed up our Bromptons and bicycled seven miles downhill with a strong tailwind to Walker. The Paul Bunyan Trail links up with the Heartland Trail a few miles north of Walker. There's a trail that runs down into Walker from the combined Heartland and Paul Bunyan trails, but be careful not to miss it. The signage on the Paul Bunyan trail is sparse and we found it easy to get confused (next time we're taking a GPS device). 

The view from the city dock on Leech Lake was gorgeous with blue skies and puffy, white clouds. Leech Lake is big lake ringed with deep green hills. However, the wind was blowing hard at 14 MPH with gusts up to 36 MPH, so there were very few boats on the lake. It was very difficult to sketch in the wind. Roberta did this quick sketch between wind gusts:

A windy day in Walker - Roberta Avidor
We were interviewed by Jackson Brunner, a reporter for Lakeland Public Television. You can watch his report at the IPTV website. While I was sketching on the dock, my wide-brimmed Tilley hat blew away. It wasn't that much of a problem since I brought along my Jefferson Lines hat which I wore for the rest of the trip.

After our interview, we biked south along the shore of Leech Lake to our next destination, Hackensack, 13.5 miles south of Walker. We decided not to pedal north back to the Heartland/Paul Bunyan Trail. If we had continued on the Heartland/Paul Bunyan Trail, we would have added 17  more miles to our trip including a hilly stretch of the trail dubbed "The Pyrenees" by some bicyclists we met on the trail. We were already running behind schedule, so we chose to bike on the Shingobee Connection Trail. To get to the Shingobee Connection Trail from Walker, we first had to pedal on the shoulder of Highway 371, which was not a lot of fun. We had gotten used to bicycling mile after mile in idyllic woods, prairie and farmland, so it was a letdown to bike alongside noisy cars and trucks. Fortunately, that stretch of the trail was short and we were soon back in the woods with only the sound of wind in the trees and insects buzzing around our heads. A few hours later we were in Hackensack.

Hackensack is a cute town, known mainly for its giant statue of Lucette, Paul Bunyan's legendary sweetheart. Hackensack is also, according to legend, the birthplace of Paul Bunyan Junior. Hackensack has a nice park with a great view of Birch Lake. We stayed at the Owls Nest Motel, a classic, northwoods, log cabin exterior, knotty pine interior motel. The pre-head on their sign says "We Give a Hoot". 

My sketch of the Owl's Nest Motel.
We were pretty hungry, so we walked next door to the Birchwood Char House & Bar. I ate their award-winning Birchwood Char burger which really was an awesome burger ("home smoked pulled pork, home made Pigs-n-Chicks BBQ sauce, and home made creamy coleslaw."). Roberta had the mushroom-Swiss which she said could also have won an award. Roberta sketched the award:

Roberta sketched the burger trophy in her journal.
After fortifying ourselves with burgers and beer, we were prepared to sketch the Birchwood's popular Karaoke Night:

Roberta's sketch of Karaoke Night.
My sketch of sketch of Karaoke Night.
Thursday, we biked our longest stretch of the Paul Bunyan trail, 32.5 miles to Nisswa. Before we left, I sketched the iconic statues of Lucette and Paul Bunyan Junior. 

My sketch of Lucette.
Roberta sketched the big white pine behind the motel with an owl in it:

Roberta's sketch of the pine tree behind Owl's Nest Motel.
We pedaled steadily through more scenic woods and fields until we came to Backus, where we bought burgers from Willard's Saloon & Eatery and ate them in a picnic shelter next to the trail. We met a family that was having a cycling reunion on the trail. Aside from this group, we saw only a few bicyclist on this section of the Paul Bunyan Trail. We continued on to Pine River where we stopped to fill our tires with air at a rest stop along the trail. We also biked into town for an ice tea. We continued on to Pequot Lakes where we stopped for ice coffee at Lakes Latte and cooled off for an hour. I sketched the Pequot Lakes "Bobber Water Tower":

I sketched the Pequot Lakes water tower in my journal.
We pedaled the remaining 9.5 miles to Nisswa, a charming tourist town bustling with people. Nisswa is in the heart of the Paul Bunyan-land lakes, cabin and resort region. We had dinner at Big Axe Brewing and turned in early at the Nisswa Motel, a nice place to stay that's only a block from the trail:

Roberta's sketch of the Nisswa Motel.
The next morning we had a big breakfast at the very busy Adirondack Coffee. I saw several bicyclists drop into the Adirondack for coffee (they made a special blend to honor of the opening of the Paul Bunyan Trail). The Adirondack also has amazing scones:

An amazing scone at the Adirondack.
 The Adirondack has a nice, shady outdoor area which I sketched:

My sketch of the patio in front of the Adirondack in Nisswa.
After lunch, we were back on the trail on the final 16.7 miles to our next destination, Whiteley Creek Homestead and Bed & Breakfast in Brainerd. The trail was mostly downhill from Nisswa passing through woods and alongside lakes:

Roberta takes in the scenery while pedaling her Brompton.
We began seeing more and more damage from the recent windstorm south of Merrifield toward Brainerd. A lot of trees were blown over on both sides of the trail, but this is the only one we saw blocking on the trail:

The only downed tree we encountered blocking the trail.
We left the trail at Beaver Dam Road and pedaled on the shoulder to Riverside Drive to 4th Street in Brainerd. We bought some foodstuffs from the Crow Wing Co-op on Washington Street (Highway 210). We biked the rest of the way along the highway, about 3 miles to the B&B. We turned off from the highway onto Whiteley Creek Trail, an unpaved road leading to the B&B. We were greeted by a flock of friendly chickens. A short time later we met our hosts Dick and Adrienne who gave us a tour of the picturesque homestead with its many antique cars and curios. Roberta and I hiked a short trail overlooking a valley. In the remaining daylight, I began a sketch of an old truck in front of a caboose. Roberta did a study of the chickens. We stayed in a comfortable, rustic cabin with many windows looking east into the woods.

Saturday morning, we sipped coffee in front of a fireplace on the veranda of Whitley Creek. A splendid breakfast was served and we met the other guests. Adrienne told a story about the recent windstorm and how her garden's scarecrow, a repurposed plastic Santa, barely survived the falling trees. I knew I had to sketch the brave, resolute scarecrow after breakfast, and I did:

Head and hand damaged, but still standing.
Meanwhile, Roberta sketched the chickens:

Roberta's sketch of the chickens.
Roberta and her models.
There was so much stuff to sketch at Whitely Creek and we hope to return in the near future. After noon, we packed up and pedaled back into Brainerd to catch the Jefferson Lines bus back to Minneapolis. I was sitting across the aisle from a passenger with a service dog which I sketched (good practice for sketching at the  "Paws on Grand" event the next day). Our bus had wifi, so I was able to post this sketch:
A service dog on a Jeffferson Lines bus.
We're back in our loft in Saint Paul's Union Depot and thinking of more multi-modal journeys. We want to thank all our partners and especially Jefferson Lines who made it possible for us to have a fun-filled road trip without setting foot once inside an automobile.