Last week, I was on a train in Sweden with my family on my way to my sister's wedding. There were two Polish laborers sitting next to us. They started speaking to my brother- in- law (Daniel) in Swedish, and asked him why we were speaking in English. Daniel told them we were from the United States. One of them smiled really big, and said (in English), "Oh, Route 66, my dream."
This was not the first time I had heard someone from another country share their dream of traveling on Route 66. For whatever reason, to some people, Route 66 represents America in the same way the Sydney Opera House does Australia or Christ the Redeemer does Brazil.
I followed Historic Route 66 to California by motorcycle in 2004. I must admit, it did feel like a right of passage. The combination of being on a motorcycle and riding on America's open road, was the ultimate sense of freedom. If you have an opportunity to do it, you should.
Here is a little history about Route 66 according to Wikipedia.
One of the original U.S. highways, Route 66 was established on November 11, 1926. However, road signs did not go up until the following year. The famous highway originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, before ending at Los Angeles, encompassing a total of 2,448 miles (3,940 km). It was recognized in popular culture by both a hit song (written by Bobby Troup and performed by Depeche Mode, the Nat King Cole Trio and The Rolling Stones, among others) and the Route 66 television show in the 1960s.
Route 66 underwent many improvements and realignments over its lifetime, changing its path and overall length. Many of the realignments gave travelers faster or safer routes, or detoured around city congestion. One realignment moved the western endpoint farther west from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica.
Route 66 was a major path of the migrants who went west, especially during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, and supported the economies of the communities through which the road passed. People doing business along the route became prosperous due to the growing popularity of the highway, and those same people later fought to keep the highway alive even with the growing threat of being bypassed by the new Interstate Highway System.
US 66 was officially removed from the United States Highway System on June 27, 1985 after it was decided the route was no longer relevant and had been replaced by the Interstate Highway System. Portions of the road that passed through Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona have been designated a National Scenic Byway of the name "Historic Route 66". It has begun to return to maps in this form. Some portions of the road in southern California have been redesignated "State Route 66", and others bear "Historic Route 66" signs and relevant historic information.