Aussie bikers in the pink on ride through River City

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Australian motorcyclists Justin Parsons, left, and Debbie Mercer stopped in Vicksburg Monday and Tuesday on their circuitous route from San Francisco to Milwaukee for the Harley Davidson 100th Anniversary Celebration.C. Todd Sherman The Vicksburg Post)

[8/20/03]They aren’t exactly taking the straightest route from San Francisco to Milwaukee, but two Australian Harley Davidson enthusiasts who stopped in Vicksburg this week will at least have memories of a visit with friends, and a pink gorilla.

Justin Parsons, 34, and Debbie Mercer, 25, both from Perth, said the plastic beast outside a pawn shop at Lee and Washington streets is one of the landmarks they noticed since arriving in Vicksburg Monday.

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There are actually three gorillas outside the store, and the owner says they’re great for business.

Parsons and Mercer are two of 580 Australians who arrived on the West Coast July 20 to ride to the Aug. 28 Harley celebration in Wisconsin. All shipped their motorcycles to the United States and began touring soon after arriving. Parsons and Mercer split off from the group a couple of thousand miles off and have been traveling alone.

They began mapping out places to visit two years ago, and so far they’ve seen Yellowstone National Park, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and New Orleans.

“Because of planning and because of reading books, we knew where we wanted to go,” Parsons said, sitting on his Harley.

The trip to Vicksburg was due to the friendship of Parsons’ father with Dr. Robert and Nancy Clingan, who live at 2011 Cherry St. Nancy Clingan said she met Parsons’ father at an international dog show and when she heard about the trip Parsons and Mercer were going to make, she let them know they had a place to stay in Mississippi.

Tuesday, Parsons’ 1996 Harley was loaded with about 100 pounds of camping equipment, clothes and other essentials.

Saddlebags were strapped and tied nearly everywhere they would stay.

A storage bag just above the front headlight had an Australian flag on it.

And where after the pink gorilla?

Graceland in Memphis, of course.

“We have an appointment with Elvis,” Mercer said.