Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Save the Amtrak Hoosier State!

Last week, Roberta and I rode the Amtrak Hoosier State for the last time.  The Hoosier State  connected Indianapolis and Chicago. Chicago is a rail hub, which Roberta and I use frequently to travel and sketch nationwide with our Brompton folding bikes. This vital rail link is no more.  But, I don't want to complain about our inconvenience. Roberta and I will find alternatives. However, there is a group of people, a people with no online voice for which this cancellation is a far greater inconvenience, the Amish.

Friday night, while riding the Hoosier State, I spoke with some Amish passengers. They asked me why the Indiana Legislature cancelled the Hoosier State. The Amish have religious restrictions regarding computers, email and social media where public debate happens these days so, I feel obligated to relay their concerns. I want readers to know how Governor Holcomb and the Indiana Legislature acted to restrict the religious freedom of fellow citizens by canceling passenger rail service to and from Chicago to Indianapolis. 

Many Amtrak passengers are Amish. Orthodox Amish have religious restrictions about transportation technology. They do not drive or fly on planes. Passenger trains are a vital service for them. Cutting the Hoosier State while spending lavishly on highways and airports is a restriction of their religious freedom. 

The Amish have a Constitutional right to practice their religion in a way that does not impinge on the rights of others. Most non-Amish people like Roberta and I can choose to fly in an airplane or drive a car and not violate their religious beliefs. Protection of the rights of religious minorities is why we have the First Amendment.

The annual cost in the Indiana budget to maintain the Hoosier State was $3 million. That’s peanuts. The entire budget approved by the Indiana Legislature and Governor Holcomb was upwards of $30 billion (and the Amish pay taxes too).

$3 million a year is a small price to pay to safeguard the religious freedom of our fellow citizens. Governor Holcomb ‏needs to restore funding for the Hoosier State. Failure to do so is religious intolerance bordering on persecution.

This is an issue that bridges the rural/urban divide. This is an important matter for Indianapolis  residents like my wife and I who are car-free, but also rural people who travel to Indianapolis for the train.

On our last trip on the Hoosier State I sketched (after asking permission) these Amish young women singing hymns in German and English. It was one of those incredibly beautiful, convivial,  spontaneous experiences that happen frequently on passenger trains. If you live in Indiana, please contact Governor Holcomb and your state representative about this matter. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Sketches of the Awesome Crews of Amtrak

When I ride Amtrak, I like sketching the scenery outside and my fellow passengers. I sometimes sketch the awesome, hard-working Amtrak crews. Some of the sketches are in my journals, which I keep. I have also sketched in spiral-bound sketchbooks and even paper table coverings, which the crew members get to keep. When I give away a sketch, I usually take a photo for my social media. Here's some photos of Amtrak crew members and their sketches.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Amtrak Trip to California and Back

Roberta and I too a big Amtrak trip to California this month. We took the Hoosier State from Indianapolis to Chicago, the Southwest Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles, the Coast Starlight to San Jose, the Capitol Corridor to Emeryville, the California Zephyr to Chicago and the Hoosier State back home to Indiana. We travelled over 5,550 miles by train through some of the most scenic parts of America. Here's some of our sketches:

Roberta sketching on the Hoosier State,

Roberta's sketch of the desert landscape on the Southwest Chief.

Roberta and I sketching in the observation car on the Southwest Chief.
Plains and mountains of Colorado on the Southwest Chief.

Roberta painted the farms outside Salinas on the Coast Starlight.

I sketched the stunning scenery in Nevada on the California Zephyr.

Roberta painted the towering cliffs in the Rockies on the California Zephyr.
Roberta sketching in the observation car of the 
on the California Zephyr.
Another sketch by Roberta 
on the California Zephyr.
At dinner, I sketched some of my fellow passengers.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Bicycling & Sketching in Chicago and Indianapolis

Roberta and I took our folding bikes on Amtrak's Empire Builder to Indianapolis with a short stop in Chicago. We love these two cities and look forward to returning for more bicycling and sketching.
The "Bean" by Roberta.

Buckingham Fountain by Roberta

The Surgery Museum from my journal.

General Logan, my sketch

Union Station & Indy, from my journal

Union Station, sketch by Roberta

Amtrak conductor, sketch by me

Soldiers & Sailors Monument, sketch by me

Lion, Indy War Memorial, sketch by me

Canal Walk, sketch by Roberta

White River Park trail, sketch by Roberta

Roberta & I biking the Indy Cultural Trail
UPDATE: Roberta and I were so impressed with Indianapolis, we moved there! 

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).