By Anne E. Schwartz Special to Published Jul 09, 2014 at 12:05 PM

JOPLIN, Mo. — Two iconic figures intersect this week as Harley-Davidson riders led by motorcycle scion Bill Davidson take the road to discovery on Route 66.

"The American Road Tour" was created by Davidson, vice president of the Harley-Davidson Museum and great-grandson of the company founder, and his team. Davidson said when he surveyed the mass of historic items from the new "American Road" exhibit (opening at the Museum this week) he realized that there was no actual "tour."

"What better way to embrace the history of the road than by riding the ‘Mother Road,’" Davidson told a group of about 40 riders assembled at Hideout Harley-Davidson in Joplin, MO Tuesday night on the eve of the start of "The American Road Tour" ride. Davidson’s sister, Karen Davidson, creative director at the motor company, also joins him on the ride.

The ride was set to begin Wednesday from Joplin and ends Friday in Milwaukee, following historic Route 66 as closely as possible. It is the first-ever riding tour put on by the Harley-Davidson Museum. Yes, there are the sights to be seen but the heart of the famous road is the people along the way. Route 66 is made up of asphalt and characters and the week promises to give riders plenty of both.

To set the mood, author and Route 66 aficionado Michael Wallis, held a book signing Tuesday evening of "Route 66: The Mother Road." He called the journey "the road to discovery – or rediscovery."

Wallis has written more than a dozen books, several on Route 66. He told the group of his work as a consultant to movie giant Pixar on the animated film "Cars," taking days to show the Pixar team the road’s highlights and sharing stories of what he calls "his" road. He later lent his voice to the character of the sheriff of Radiator Springs in the movie.

"Today’s rendition of Route 66 is a grizzled veteran but with the allure of an aging celebrity," Wallis said.

Riders will get up close and personal with the Mother Road on Wednesday, when the day’s route ends in St. Louis. Points of interest for the day include the world’s largest rocking chair in Fanning, MO; a stop at Gary’s Gay Parita in Ash Grove MO for a refreshment at the restored gas station and Bob’s Gasoline Alley in Cuba, MO to see the largest collection of Route 66 gasoline memorabilia in the Midwest.

Coming attraction Thursday: Saddletramp: The man behind the planning (and the mustache) for the historic ride.

Anne E. Schwartz Special to

Anne E. Schwartz is a veteran award-winning print and broadcast journalist who has worked for more than 25 years in the Milwaukee area writing about public safety issues. She was the reporter who broke the Jeffrey Dahmer story while at the former Milwaukee Journal in 1991 and wrote a book on the case, "The Man Who Could Not Kill Enough: The Story of Milwaukee's Jeffrey Dahmer." She is a nationally-recognized trainer on crisis communications and risk assessment for both the public and private sector.

Anne lives in Milwaukee's Third Ward. She enjoys cooking and takes culinary classes when she travels around the country and the world. She loves riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles with her partner Mark.