Vroom, vroom, Harleys arrive

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 21, 2007

NATCHEZ — Motorcyclists started rumbling into town Thursday for a four-day rally. Roughly 650 pre-registered, and organizers expect that number to double over the next few days.

This is the second year the state’s annual Harley-Davidson Owners Group rally, which moves around from year to year, has located in Natchez.

“Natchez is a very historical place and a great ride,” rally coordinator Mike Sumrall said Thursday. “The rallies are pretty much the same from one state to another. It’s the local interest that draws people.”

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The group will spend the next few days touring county roads, attending classes, planning next year’s rally and generally socializing.

To top off the weekend, the more than 1,000 motorcycles will parade from the Natchez Visitors Center across the Mississippi River bridge to Vidalia and back 4 p.m. Saturday.

State rallies often draw out-of-state visitors, too, Sumrall said.

Charlie Herder and his wife, Els, were two visitors from another state. The couple rode from Plano, Texas, to attend the rally.

“It’s a historic place and close to the Natchez Trace, which we like,” Herder said.

Motorcycles hold a special draw for people like the Herders, he said.

“There’s a sense of freedom on the open road — doing what you want and going where you want,” he said.

There’s more to being a Harley Owners Group, or H.O.G., member than owning a bike, said Pete Tyer, who rode from Clinton with his wife, son and daughter-in-law.

“There’s a lot of camaraderie in motorcycles,” he said.

With so many bikes on the road, Sumrall said it was important for motorists to be mindful of the two-wheeled visitors.

“I got cut off on my way here (to the convention center),” Sumrall said. “One driver just didn’t see me.”

The rally, which will last through Saturday, is joined this year by the Great Southern V-Twin Expo, a bike show open to all brands of motorcycles.