Having taken to California Zephyr from Chicago to the Bay Area a few years, I decided it is time for a more southerly route, on the Sunset Limited. The Sunset starts in Los Angeles at historic Union Station, and ends up in the great city of New Orleans. It just so happens that I arrive on Feb 1, and the Super Bowl will be held on Feb. 3 in the rather infamous Superdome. Remember, they housed several thousands after Hurricane Katrina.
Only three trains depart weekly in each direction. Along the way are some interesting stops, although I will go straight through. First in Tucson is Saguaro National Park, which we visited a few years ago. Then in Alpine, Texas, the big attraction is Big Bend National Park, which I have not visited yet.
I am staying in a sleeper car for two nights along the way. The schedule is a little strange with a 10pm departure out of Los Angeles, and a 10pm arrival in Nawlins two days later. This route began in 1971 when Amtrak initiated service along the 1,995 mile route. The average ridership is 319 passengers, though it will likely be higher due to the Super Bowl. Perhaps the Niner cheerleaders will be on my train!
The original Sunset Limited (1993-2005), was limited due to Hurricane Katrina. The Sunset route went from Los Angeles to Miami, the only truly transcontinental route in American rail history. Pre-Amtrak, the route was serviced by the Southern Pacific Railroad from 1894 to the start of Amtrak in 1971.
So, here are the listed stops:
El Paso, TX
Lake Charles, LA
I did not know that the train stops at some stations only when passengers are present. Other stations are must stops, and though a train may arrive early, it cannot leave until the scheduled time. Another plus is that Amtrak does not add a bunch of extra charges, other than tipping at the end of the trip. Trains also deliver the passenger into the heart of the city.
From my previous trip, I realize that one of the best things to do on the train is just to wander. The train lets you stretch your legs, get some fresh air, and grab a beverage anytime of day or night. But the biggest pleasure is to meet and talk with the other passengers. And legroom is never an issue!
To start the trip, I am flying to Long Beach to visit my Aunt and Uncle. Then I will take the light rail into downtown Los Angeles and famed Union Station to catch the Sunset. So, my biggest issue is the shower. If I shower in Long Beach, I need only one shower on the train. I arrive in Nawlins at 10pm on the third day, meaning I can shower at my destination. I hate the train showers, often times small, and often times showering while teetering back and forth in the stall.
But such are the difficulties and enjoyments of rail travel. It is part of America that I now have time to enjoy, this long slow train to the Bayou. I have long forgotten my airline flights, but I never forget the train rides. If you ever get the chance to do something like this, I highly recommend it. It is better than the airplane, even when sitting in First Class.