Riding the Sunset Limited with a girl named Elizabeth

  “I’m a thousand miles away from home

Waiting on a train.”  -Jimmie Rodgers

Historic train poster for the Sunset Limited. Photographed in Houston Amtrak station.

If you’ve been following my social media this week,  you know I’ve been on a adventure.

Monday afternoon I caught Amtrak’s Sunset Limited in Lake Charles and rode it to Los Angeles (arriving on Wednesday morning).

Then I boarded the Coast Starlight which snaked along the Pacific Coast to San Francisco. After that twelve hour ride (arriving on the Bay at midnight) I rode the street cars all night studying the city.  More on that later!

After an airport “tongue bath” I’m boarding a plane for my return to Louisiana.

This trip was about research.  (I can hear y’all laughing.)


In my current work in progress, the historical novel,  As You Were,   Elizabeth Reed Miller makes an impulsive flying plane trip to see her husband Harry as his division ships out from SF to war in the Pacific.  (As You Were is the sequel to A Spent Bullet.)

One of my fellow historians, Fennell Guillot, told of making this same trip during the war.  This lit a fire in me to make the trip and see it myself.

To see it through the eyes of a 21 year old Louisiana schoolteacher stubborn enough to ride a train 2000 miles to see her husband for a few hours.  A girl who’s never been past Shreveport or Lake Charles.

West Texas mountain near El Paso. Taken from the train May 8, 2012

It’s May 2, 1941. Join us on this trip.

Since you’re part of this book,  I’d like your input:  what in the world would make a young sensible woman make such a trip?

Here is the dialogue where Elizabeth breaks the news of the trip to her mother:

“Elizabeth, why in the world would you do a crazy thing like that?”

“I’ve got to see Harry one more time, and there’s something I need to give him.”

“What is it?”

“I had a dream. I have to go.”

1.  What would make a young newlywed do such a thing?”

2. What object do you thing she’s taking?

3.  Could there be an unsaid motive for her trip?

4. What do you think her dream was about?

There are no wrong answers! Help us out.

I’ll be adding info and links to this post throughout today.  Join in the fun and share with your friends.



  1. Curt,
    Looking forward to reading this latest book.
    God bless,

  2. Did she give him a locket or a scented scarf? Interesting

    Perhaps she thought her “gift” would bring him safely back to her

  3. Carolyn Gresham

    1. The fear that I may never see him again.
    2 & 3.What would I take? It wouldn’t be an object necessarily, but hope and a need to survive (news of being with child?)! There could be an object or a tangible to remind him of becoming a father (hand crocheted baby booties)
    4. The dream might be of Harry being captured, but open ended and she needs to give him a strong will to survive.

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