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Digital Subscriptions > Lonely Planet Traveller (UK) > October 2016 > Into the Sun Set

Into the Sun Set

Get your ticket for a transcontinental adventure on America’s oldest railway, beginning in the bars of the Big Easy and ending on the beaches of the City of Angels

@olivertomberry

The sun rises as the Sunset Limited travels through Texas on its way from San Antonio to Alpine
PHOTOGRAPHS KRIS DAVIDSON@hellokrisdavidson

ROAD TRIPS MIGHT BE A RITE OF PASSAGE IN THE USA BUT IT’S THE RAILROAD THAT BUILT THE NATION, PUSHING THE FRONTIER ALL THE WAY WEST ACROSS THE CONTINENT. AND NO TRAIN PLAYS A MORE IMPORTANT PART IN THE STORY OF AMERICAN EXPANSION THAN THE LEGENDARY SUNSET LIMITED.

INAUGURATED IN 1894, THIS TRANSCONTINENTAL ROUTE IS THE OLDEST CONTINUOUSLY RUNNING TRAIN SERVICE IN AMERICA. IT’S THE RAILROAD EQUIVALENT OF ROUTE 66 – AN EPIC EAST-WEST JOURNEY. YET MOST AMERICANS DON’T EVEN KNOW IT EXISTS.

THOUGH IT WASN’T THE FIRST ROUTE TO COMPLETE THE COAST-TO-COAST LINK, THE SUNSET LIMITED WAS THE FASTEST, SLASHING THE JOURNEY TIME TO JUST FOUR DAYS AND, ARGUABLY, MARKING THE USA’S EMERGENCE AS A MODERN NATION.

FROM WOODED CREEK TO CITY SKYLINE TO CACTUS-STUDDED DESERT, IT’S LIKE WATCHING THE PAGES OF A GEOGRAPHY TEXTBOOK FLICKER PAST THE TRAIN WINDOW. AND JUST AS IT HAS FOR THE LAST CENTURY, THE JOURNEY BEGINS ON THE MUDDY BANKS OF THE MISSISSIPPI, SET TO A SOUNDTRACK OF JAZZ.

Darryl ‘Dancing Man’ Young encourages bystanders to join a street-corner performance in New Orleans’ French Quarter
ILLUSTRATION: NIK NEVES

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

Mile 0

A downpour has just cracked above the French Quarter. Rain streams from the gutters but the bad weather hasn’t dampened spirits, and a crowd has gathered as Dancing Man begins his show. Clad in a white shirt and razor-creased trousers, a black-and-gold sash slung across his chest, he shimmies across the street, following the beat set by a musician in a jaunty top hat and feather boa. He beckons the crowd to join in, and before long, Dancing Man’s show has become a full-blown street party.

‘That’s how things roll in New Orleans,’ he explains, strolling past the clapboard houses along Royal Street. ‘We say “laissez les bons temps rouler” – let the good times roll. That’s what life here’s about.’

Dancing Man – aka Darryl Young – has become something of a legend in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. Born and bred in the 9th Ward, one of the city’s poorest areas, and trained as a chef, since the storm he’s embraced a new career as a dance leader, inspired by the old New Orleans tradition of the Second Line – the informal procession that forms behind the first line of mourners and musicians during a traditional funeral, as the coffin travels from church to cemetery.

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About Lonely Planet Traveller (UK)

Book for your ferry for an island-hopping trip around the Cyclades, hop on the legendary Sunset Limited train for a cross-state American adventure from New Orleans to LA, join us for some epic bike rides, learn about the final resting place of Noah’s Ark in Armenia, and book in for a cosy autumn break in our pick of the season’s best hotels.
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