A spring break road trip by college students is not unheard of, but when a group of Western Illinois University students piled into a rental car in mid-March it was to fulfill a life-long dream.
Three international students, spearheaded by the dream of visiting broadcasting scholar Nolan Zuo, of China, drove nearly the entire length on the historic Route 66, which stretches from Chicago, IL, to Santa Monica, CA. Zuo was joined on the trip by Western English as a Second Language (WESL) students Xin Tan and Zhi Yong Li, both also of China.
While Western was on spring break, March 11 – 15, the three friends drove 3,000 miles of the route in six days, pausing at car museums and information stops along the way. Their section of the trip began in Springfield, IL.
“This was one of my biggest dreams in America,” said Zuo, who is studying in America through May. “I had heard about how important the route was to the area and a lot of people have never given up on this old road – we saw a lot of people trying to protect it. We really enjoyed talking to people along the way who had great stories.”
Li said he was interested in the trip because of his study of history and about how important Route 66 was to the expansion of the west. Tan said a popular car advertisement in China references Route 66, which piqued his interest in the trip.
During the trip, Tan took charge of navigation, and Li took most of the photographs.
Prior to departing on the trip, the trio spent many hours mapping out their route and the places they hoped to visit each day. During the final stop in Santa Monica, CA, Zuo said the three friends could reflect on everything they’d seen.
“When we got to Santa Monica, we could see the Pacific Ocean, and we just relaxed and enjoyed the view,” he said. “It was so interesting that on the other side of that ocean is our home in China.”
The three friends said they enjoyed a variety of American cuisine along the way but also looked for Chinese food in larger cities.
All three men said they would like to plan a return trip to enjoy Route 66. All three also have numerous other American sites they would like to see before their return to China.
For more information about stops along the route, visit historic66.com.