[Amtrak US #5] planning detailed schedule

After drawing the BIG PICTURE on how I wanted to travel the US (with 30 days of USA rail pass), now it is time to make more detailed plan. You have to make reservation for the each train ride, even if you have the pass (will get back to this is later posts) meaning you have to know specific date/time of the trains you want to ride.

I sort of decided the starting date to be July 23rd and ending date to be around one month after that. According to the big picture I want to visit about ten cities (including Grand Canyon), so that means I will spend 2~4 days in each. Sounds simple enough, right?

Well… I don’t know if there’s an easier way, but for me it was a bit complicated task to finish (took whole afternoon.) Maybe it was because I started from punching in the cities on Amtrak reservation site, to find out the best choice of train to hop in. For example, I punched in Boston–>Chicago on July 23rd like this.

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This route was no problem because there’s only one, daily train from Boston to Chicago. I HAVE TO take THE train. But this kind of searching became a problem later because for some of the route, the train was not there everyday! For example from New Orleans to Houston the train leaves only Mon, Wed, and Saturday.   So if you punch in, for instance,  Sunday as a starting day you get something like this. Notice of ‘no train available’ and only one alternative. I felt like ‘hmm…. what if there’s better alternatives?’

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You can play around with Amtrak reservation system punching in random dates, but for me, it did not seem efficient.

Then I found the old fashioned Amtrak time table booklet!

It is a bit ironic because yes, it is old fashioned booklet but Amtrak does not print the hard copy (one that you can pick up at the train station) anymore (at least it seems… making many people furious <related discussion>.) But the good new is that you can still acquire free pdf booklet of the national timetable on Amtrak website. ***Here is downloadable link of June 2018 version of the Amtrak System Timetable***

It is 139 pages pdf of booklet that you can search cities easily by ‘ctrl/cmd+f’. I am a ‘paper’ person so I also printed out the whole booklet.

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<Amtrak System Timetable> printed out

The book has every timetable of Amtrak trains and connecting buses run by Amtrak (you can use a USA rail pass for a ride on these buses.) The chapters are sorted by regions (Northeast, East, Midwest, West, Pacific Northwest, and California) and in the first few pages (‘Amtrak Service Location’) all the cities are listed alphabetically with the page(s) to look up the schedule.

Ok finally, here’s how I constructed the detailed schedule. I will display the steps by example of <New Orleans–> Houston> route. (*I used the free Adobe Acrobat reader for the example.)

  1. (Done before) Draw the big picture and sort out the cities to visit.
    For me it is: Boston–> Chicago–> New Orleans–> Houston–> Tucson–> (by rental car: Sedona–> Grand Canyon–> Las Vegas)–> LA–> San Francisco–> Portland–> Seattle
  2. Look up the name of the city for the train ride in the ‘Amtrak Service Location’ pages (pp. 3~12) . Either departure or arrival city is okay. I looked up ‘New Orleans’ and it has four pages to look up (58, 69, 70, 87.)Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 10.39.21 AM
  3. Punch in the pages () in the pdf reader. I found the route connecting New Orleans–> Houston in page 70. Oh, it is the same train that goes from Houston to Tucson (my next ride)! I can easily the train only runs on Mon/Wed/Saturday ()Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 10.49.02 AM
  4. Write down in separate paper or document file the departure/arrival cities, departure date and time for the ride. In my case, it is July 30th (Monday.) You will have to use this paper/document to make reservations for the ride.For this ride I wrote down (in a piece of paper):
    July 30th (Mon) New Orleans 9:00 AM –> Houston 6:18 PM
  5. Repeat 1~4 until you have the complete schedule!

Later I made neatly arranged spreadsheet to take to the Amtrak station where I picked up the USA rail pass and made the reservations for each ride. Will get back to reservations on later post and for now, here’s the schedule I made using the above steps. The letters look kind of small below, but you can look up the spreadsheet here in case you are interested😁!

 

[one drawing #17] moonlight

This is another practice of copying the great Georges Seurat’s charcoal drawing.
I usually choose the drawings that look pretty easy, and every time end up crying out with agony “Oh, it’s so much harder than my expectation! (Maybe he had better paper… or better eraser?)”

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Practice after Seurat’s <Factories by Moonlight>

I had to improvise a looooooooot on purpose or not on purpose (mostly not….rather involuntarily forced to!) 🧐
This is Seurat’s original painting <Courbevoie: Factories by Moonlight>

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Georges Seurat <Courbevoie: Factories by Moonlight>, Conté crayon on paper

 

ps: a little slideshow to commemorate finishing my first sketchbook!

 

 

[one drawing #16] mickey mouse

While visiting Orlando last month, I bought a book called <Celebrated Characters Collection>. What a great book, that I can learn how to draw famous Disney characters!

So I drew Mickey Mouse with a soft pencil and pastel. I just followed the direction on the book then like 30 mins later, I had (a little bit cubby) Mickey Mouse on my small sketchbook! (I drew Donald Duck too, haha)

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Mickey Mouse

The second practice was to DRAW the letters ‘Mickey Mouse.’

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Mickey Mouse, the letters

My teacher Anne McGhee told me that I have to learn to not trust my brain. To fool the brain, I drew the letters sideway like this.

mickey

33, dancing people, track, skyscrapers (not ‘scaper’ :-P), track…

Tried to lie to my brain that these are not letters but are ’33’, ‘dancing people’, ‘skyscraper’ etc. Of course, they are letters, but it was fun just to try to look at the letters with other perspective. 

Below is the book <‘Celebrated Characters Collection’> by Walter Foster Jr. and a couple of pages I followed.

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[Amtrak US #4] Drawing the BIG PICTURE

 

 

While preparing for a trip, the most exciting moment for me is the time looking at the map to choose which cities to visit and what roads to take.

For 2018 Amtrak trip, the starting point for my planning was the map that Amtrak provided on their website.  This interactive map is called ‘Amtrak Travel Planning Map.’ (***I don’t know why, but this link doesn’t seem to work in mobile devices. Will update if I can find the mobile version of the interactive map. Again, Amtrak is not the most user friendly company!)

The map is useful to kind of draw a BIG PICTURE in your head. For instance, my starting point is Boston so I could check where to the railroads extend from Boston. I could go South (to New York), North (to Maine), or to Northwest (to Chicago). I decided to go to Chicago because my final destination is Seattle and it seemed pretty reasonable to head Chicago if you look at the map (plus, I visited NY and Maine many times already.) Then from Chicago I could go further Northwest to North Dakota and Montana, but then my trip will end too soon! So I decided to go South to New Orleans…. and so on.

This is my BIG PICTURE of Amtrak trip 2018!

<BIG PICTURE for Amtrak trip 2018>
Boston–> Chicago–> New Orleans–> Houston–> Tucson–> (This part I decided to travel with a rental car: Sedona–> Grand Canyon–> Las Vegas)–> Los Angeles (Thruway Bus, which is Amtrak USA rail pass covered Greyhound Bus… meaning free with USA rail pass)–> San Francisco–> Portland (Oregon)–> Seattle (then back to South Korea)

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Really, it is just like a starting point and much more details had to be decided later. For example, I had to decided whether I would stop by Cleveland (the hometown of Indians and Cavaliers -good bye King James!-) before heading to Chicago. I decided to skip it for this trip because I had looooooooong way to go and it felt like too much time on Midwest.

My itinerary is a bit unique because I am not coming back to where I started. Well… I think every traveler is one of a kind so there might not be something like THE ‘answer sheet.’ But for a guidance, I borrowed the book <All Aboard> from the library and skimmed through it . It is a nice little guidebook that gives you a motivation and basic info about train trip (like you get free meals if you pay extra for roomette, which I will get back to later.) There seem to be a few more books about train trip like <Tourist Trains Guidebook> , but I haven’t read it yet.

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<All Aboard> by Jim Loomis

These are the suggested itineraries from <All Aboard> FYI. The routes are mostly loops that one can come back to the starting points. The lovely titles of the itineraries are from the author (Jim Loomis, he runs great website about train trip in US.)

»Big City Tour: Chicago-Washington, DC-NY-Boston-Chicago
»Glaciers to Glitz: San Francisco-Seattle-Chicago-San Francisco
»A Western Triangle: Los Angeles-San Francisco-Portland-Santa Fe-Los Angeles
»Big Mountains, Little Towns: Los Angeles-Santa Fe-Galesburg-Granby-Davis-Los Angeles
»Oh, Canada!: NY-Toronto-Vancouver-Seattle or San Francisco
»The Santa Fe Trail: Chicago-Dodge City-Santa Fe-Grand Canyon-Los Angeles-Chicago
»The Ultimate Round Trip: NY-Washington DC-New Orleans-San Francisco-Seattle-Chicago-Boston-NY
»Semigrand Tour: Seattle-Chicago-New Orleans-Los Angeles-San Francisco-Seattle
»Fall Colors I: Philadelphia-Pittsburgh-Chicago-Washington DC-Philadelphia
»Fall Colors II: NY-Saratoga Springs-Ticonderoga-Montreal-NY

 

[one drawing #15] rays

I finally got a fixative spray from Blick Art Materials in Central Square, Cambridge (MA). It means that I can keep my charcoal drawings without worrying about them evaporating(?)!Charcoal is my favorite material so far because so many shades can be expressed with such a simple stick… of course, when your hand is not so tight/shaky. And it is so much fun to erase out spaces. I love charcoal also because it is the first material that my teacher (Anne McGhee) taught me to draw. Lastly, it looks so cool (artist-like?… haha) to draw with charcoal!To celebrate my first purchase of fixative spray, I decided to draw something with charcoal today. The only problem was that it was already 10:00pm when I could sit down for drawing. I skimmed through the drawing book of Seurat that I borrowed from Cambridge Public Library, and found the fantastic drawing that I wanted to copy. The drawing seemed to have every aspects that I needed to practice for like middle tone, dark parts, erased out spaces etc. (Oh, how amazing that Seurat expresses the rays by erasing out the sunlight!)

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Georges Seurat, ‘Rays’, 1884

So audaciously I drew, and here is my charcoal drawing: so FIXED to the sketchbook with my new FIXATIVE spray!IMG_4161I know, I know… it looks so different from Seurat’s but well…. that is why he is the Master! I noticed so may things I want to change after I took the photo, but found out it was impossible to fix charcoal drawing after putting on the fixative spray.

*one small tip: The book <Georges Seurat, the Drawings> by Museum of Modern Art (MoMA in NY) is the absolute best if you want to study Seurat’s drawings and paintings.