The Sunset Limited starts in New Orleans and takes the most southerly route in the U.S. all the way to Los Angeles, California. Those who stayed awake during high school history class will remember that this southern route was made possible by the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, not to mention the Mexican-America War of 1846-48. The train left the station at 9:00AM, so we had the whole day to observe its passage through the wet, coastal plains of Louisiana, into the pine forests of eastern Texas, and on to the clenching humidity of Houston, Texas. Night fell after we left Houston and the light didn’t return until we’d reached Del Rio, Texas and started into the scrub deserts of West Texas. We made a stop in Alpine, Texas (which I’d last visited a few years ago enroute to Big Bend National Park) and then pressed on to El Paso, Texas. Beyond El Paso, the tracks run right up to the Mexican border, right up to pieces of the new (but likely futile) border wall, and soon enter New Mexico. The Amtrak station in Deming, New Mexico stands out for being a lonely little open shelter with two benchs in a gravel parking lot. Night fell again just as we reached Benson, Arizona and that was it for any more sightseeing on this trip.
The Sunset Limited arrived in Los Angeles in the dark at 5:30AM, ontime after 1,995 miles of travel. Impressive! Then it was a rush to the airport to catch an early flight – which was delayed – followed by a connection in Portland, Oregon and home by 5:00PM. Overall, this was a magnificant trip with great friends. It was also a trip that reminded us, once again, of how huge and diverse – by almost any measure you choose – are the United States of America.