by Trip Hilliard

In 2007, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to create and organize a club specifically designed to help the Kawasaki Nomad owner. KawaNOW (Kawasaki Nomad Owners Worldwide) was born on June 7, 2007 and has quickly grown to over well over 1,000 members. In 2008, it was decided that we would hold our first National Rally in the Black Hills of Custer, South Dakota.

Some 75 people riding 55 Nomads attended the rally. All came from different parts of the US and Canada, but all came not only to rides the roads of the black hills, but to enjoy the "Nomadradery" and seal friendships that were started two years earlier.

While there, I got to meet and ride with Nomad owners that I previously just knew from a keyboard. Seeing that many Nomads in one place was awesome. There were times when I would tear up, watching a mile-long train of Nomads ride through the black hills.

I'm a better person from having attended the KawaNOW National Rally and I look forward to meeting KawaNOW members again in the future. The following is a journal outlining my trip to Custer and back in June of 2009.

Click here for video of KawaNOW National Rally 2009 on Youtube.

Friday, June 12, 2009
150 mile day - Weather: pleasant

Going on a 10-day trip is always exciting. For months I planned and poured over maps to find the best way to get to and from Custer, SD. Today, all the planning would become reality. Plan the the plan.

I loaded my Kawasaki Nomad and left my home in Lindale at 2:15pm headed for McKinney, TX where I was to meet up with Jeff "SWB" Platz. Jeff and I met at a Shell station at the corner of Hwy 380 and 75. It just so happens that Jeff is the Vice President of KawaNOW and has been my right-hand man for several years. After picking up Jeff, we proceeded West on Hwy 380 to Decatur, TX where we were to meet up with two more KawaNOW members bound for Custer.

Shortly after Jeff and I arrived in Decatur, I got a call from Mitch (Terrebonne_Nomad) stating that he and Larry (LW) were on their way. Mitch was riding his Nomad with his wife, Darlene and Larry was riding his Nomad with his wife and daughter following behind in the car. Larry, his wife and daughter plan to travel to Yellowstone after the rally in Custer for an extended vacation.

That evening, we all met up for a meal at the Armadillo Grill in Decatur and talked about our up coming trip to Custer. Tomorrow morning, we all leave together as a group and head to Dalhart, TX to meet up with more KawaNOW members.

Saturday, June 13, 2009
375 mile day - Weather: clear skies but hot temps

All of us got up, ate breakfast and got on the road about 9:30am. Today's route would take us straight up Hwy 287 through Wichita Falls, Childress, Amarillo and on to Dalhart by way of Dumas, TX and Hartley, TX on Hwy 385.

Traveling through the Texas panhandle in June of the year is no small feat. Especially when the sun is out and the temperature reaches 98 degrees or higher. We took frequent stops along the way, gassing up and taking re-hydration breaks.

At about 5:30pm, we arrived in Dalhart, TX and the Best Western, which would be our stop for the night. Also in Dalhart, we met up with Gene (Wanderer) who rode in on his Nomad from Oklahoma. Gene had already arrived and had checked into the Best Western. After greeting Gene, checking into the hotel and unpacking our gear, we walked next door as a group and ate a meal at a restaurant.

Not much to report about today's ride. The Texas panhandle affords little scenery but is something to be reckoned with if you want to get to Colorado. Tomorrow, we head to Denver.

Sunday, June 14, 2009
340 mile day - Weather: clear skies then rain and cooler temps in Colorado

After packing, loading and eating breakfast, we all got on the road about 8:00am. I had asked everyone if they would mind leaving a little early today because I didn't want to get into Denver when traffic was heavy, plus it was supposed to rain on us that afternoon and I wanted to try and avoid the rain as much as possible. Everyone agreed and we got off at an early time. However, when we reached New Mexico, I then realized that we were riding into Mountain Time which put us an hour earlier anyway. Oh well, it just put us getting into Denver that much earlier.

Me, Jeff, Mitch & Darlene, Gene, Larry (with his wife and daughter safely following us in the SUV) all got off traveling Northwest on Hwy 87. We stopped in Raton, NM for a break and gas, then we traveled North on I-25 through Pueblo and stopped for fuel and lunch in Colorado Springs. During this leg of the trip, the skies were clear to partly cloudy with no rain. But, right after we left Colorado Springs things changed. A cold front was making its way through Colorado from the Northwest.

Rain and hail hit us halfway between Colorado Springs and Denver. Since I was leading, I stopped everyone shy of the rain allowing everyone to put on their rain gear. Rain and hail pelted us for a short time but then it eased up.

We made it into Denver about 4:00pm but got stuck in traffic on I-25 headed to Westminster, CO. We finally made it to our hotel in Westminster about 5:00pm. We stayed at the Savannah Suites, a newly built hotel in the heart of North Denver. Shortly after we arrived and unloaded our Nomads, Scott (CactusJack) Hanks, Brad (Blowndodge) Langley and Tom arrived and met up with us. While we arrived in Westminster from Texas, they arrived from California and Arizona.

This was the first time I was able to meet Scott and Brad in person and after talking to them by keyboard for two years, it was great to meet them both and see their smiling faces.

After getting acquainted, we all walked across the street and ate at a Sports bar. So, now there are eight Nomads in our party. Tomorrow, the party gets even bigger as we ride and meet more Nomads on our way to Custer.

Monday, June 15, 2009
340 mile day - Weather: clear skies, mild temps

All of us packed up, checked out and ate breakfast at a Starbucks before heading to our rendezvous point North of Denver with other Nomad owners. We met up with Daryl (audiogooroo) Porter and his group at a truck stop some 10 miles North of Denver. It was great meeting everyone....Daryl, Ells, and all of the group.

We talked and got acquainted for a while, then we all headed North on I-25 through Cheyenne, WY. We stopped in Wheatland, WY. to gas, take a break and start heading through the back roads to Custer, SD.

Bob led all of us through some beautiful Wyoming countryside which took us through Guernsey, WY and up to Lusk, WY. After eating lunch in Edgemont, SD., we all pushed on and arrived in Custer at the Bavarian Inn at about 3:30pm.

Many KawaNOW members had already arrived at the Bavarian and many more were yet to arrive. It was amazing to see so many Kawasaki Nomads in one place...every type and color, with the unique look and soul of every owner. After checking into the Bavarian, I walked around and met as many as I could. Some KawaNOW members were people that I had met online two years before and had kept in communication with only over the KawaNOW forum.

It was great getting to meet everyone. There were times when I would tear up seeing all of the Nomads and KawaNOW members greeting and talking about various accessories they installed on their Nomads. It made me feel like a Father watching his son hit a home run at a baseball game. I was not only proud...but humbled.

After registering, (yes, even the CEO and Founder has to register), Jeff and I settled into our room that would be our home for the next three days and nights. After settling in, many of us met at the Frontier Bar in Custer, SD for a drink and conversation. Tomorrow officially begins the rally with two day-long rides. Riders could choose a ride through the Badlands or riding to Devil's Tower. We all meet at 9:00am tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Weather: clear skies in the morning, rain possibly in afternoon, cool temps

Planned KawaNOW Rides For The Day:
Devil's Tower Ride - All day ride - Leader=Waterman / Bavarian parking lot - Meet at 8:45am - KSU 9:30am
KawaNOW Devil's Tower Loop Ride Itinerary
b. Badlands Ride - All day ride - Leader=Kioti / Bavarian parking lot - Meet at 8:45am - KSU 9:30am
KawaNOW Badlands Loop Ride Itinerary

Jeff and I got up and ate breakfast at the Bavarian's continental. Then about 9:00am, I called everyone together in the main parking lot of the Bavarian to organize the planned two rides for the day.

This was a monumental occasion. Almost everyone that was attending the rally was there. The parking lot was full of KawaNOW members and Nomads! Over 75 people and 55 Nomads. It was such a sight, that many people were watching from hotel balconies taking pictures. After introducing myself and quickly going over the planned rides for the day, Jim (Oldbikers) spoke up and thanked me for starting KawaNOW. That started a chain reaction of clapping from everyone. I can't tell you how proud I was looking over the crowd and seeing the Nomads in the parking lot. Although KawaNOW may be a blessing to them, many of the members don't really know how KawaNOW is a blessing to me. I'm a better person having gotten to know every one of them.

After getting my composure, I went over both rides and who their leaders would be. We then split into two groups and left for our designated rides. Kioti led the Badlands Ride for the day...Waterman led the Devil's Tower ride. I chose to ride the Devil's Tower ride today because I had always wanted to see Devil's Tower.

It was a sight to behold watching over 40 Nomads snake their way through hills and canyons making their way from Custer to Devil's Tower and back. We made it back to Custer at about 5:30pm. The Badlands Ride got back about the same time we did and went very well for those that attended. Below are some pictures of the day's ride to Devil's Tower and back:


Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Weather: clear skies in the morning, rain possibly in afternoon, cool temps

Planned KawaNOW Rides For The Day:
Morning: Free Time
Afternoon Rides:
a. Iron Mountain Road and the Needles Highway/Custer State Park Wildlife Loop - Leader=Markg / Bavarian parking lot - Meet at 1:00pm - KSU 1:30pm
KawaNOW Needles/Iron Mountain Ride Itinerary
KawaNOW Custer State Park Loop Itinerary
b. Mt. Rushmore - Leader=Trip, Tailgunner=CactusJack / Bavarian parking lot - Meet at 1:00pm - KSU 1:30pm
KawaNOW Mt. Rushmore Ride Itinerary

I got a good night's sleep and got up early to shower and eat breakfast. The continental breakfast at the Bavarian was excellent every morning. It also gave me a chance to talk to many of the KawaNOW members every morning who were there eating.

Today's planned rides allowed for free time in the morning and some short rides in the afternoon. We planned it this way because many of the members wanted some time to ride to Sturgis and buy t-shirts and whatever else they wanted. I really didn't care about riding to Sturgis, so I spent the morning washing clothes. In packing for the trip, I only brought enough clothes for 5 days, this allowed me to pack more efficiently for the trip. So, it was time to wash. It just so happens that the Bavarian Inn had a washateria, made washing very convenient.

After lunch, those that wanted to attend rides for the day assembled in the main parking lot of the Bavarian. Today, Mark was going to lead a group of riders through Needles Highway, Iron Mountain Road and the Custer Wildlife Loop. I was to lead a group to see Mt. Rushmore and route our way through Iron Mountain road back to Custer. Both rides were short and took only about 3-4 hours to complete.

The Mt. Rushmore Memorial is a spectacular facility to visit.


Thursday, June 18, 2009
Weather: clear skies in the morning, rain possibly in afternoon, cool temps

Click here to view video of spiraling switchback.

Planned KawaNOW Rides For The Day:
All Day Rides:
a. Badlands Ride - All day ride - Leader=Waterman / Tailgunner=glwilson / Bavarian parking lot - Meet at 8:45am - KSU 9:30am
KawaNOW Badlands Loop Ride Itinerary
b. Devil's Tower Ride - All day ride - Leader=Kioti / Bavarian parking lot - Meet at 8:45am - KSU 9:30am
KawaNOW Devil's Tower Loop Ride Itinerary

Today was our last day of the Rally. In planning the rides, I decided to offer the same rides that we offered on Tuesday, but swap leaders. So, today offered the Badlands Ride and Devil's Tower Ride for those that couldn't ride them on Tuesday.

After organizing and sending everyone off on their respective rides at 9:00am, I called Custer State Park and arranged an appointment to come out and see the facility we were to use for our Finale Dinner tonight at 6:30pm.

So, at about 10:00am, Jeff, Todd, Amy, Mark and myself made our way to the main lodge of Custer State Park. After meeting with our contact there and verifying that everything would be ready for the dinner, we decided to take a short ride down Needles Highway and come back to Custer by way of Iron Mountain Road. Although Needles is an excellent road to ride, I really liked Iron Mountain road because of it's 360 degree switchbacks. Iron Mountain sports three of these switchbacks that I thoroughly enjoyed riding.

That evening at 6:30pm, 71 KawaNOW members, their friends and spouses gathered for the KawaNOW Finale Meal at the lodge at Custer State Park. This would be a time for all of us to eat and visit before leaving for home the next day. I asked Bud (Idaho) to say a prayer for the meal and we observed a moment of silence in remembrance of Chuck Burt, one of our members who was killed in a motorcycle accident last year. The meal turned out to be great for everyone and afterwards we gave away door prizes to those that obtained a ticket at registration. After the meal, we all gathered outside the lodge for a group picture.


Friday, June 19, 2009
375 mile day - Weather: clear skies, mild temps

With the dawning of Friday morning the time had come for us to make our way home. Our plan today was to ride to Burlington, CO. and stay the night. Everyone else was packing up to leave for home also. There were KawaNOW members at the rally that rode in from such states as California, Florida, Washington, North Carolina and Louisiana. Some were there from Canada. Although I had a three-day ride ahead of me to get home, it would take them longer to get home.

At 9:00am, our band of merry travelers were ready to go. Jeff, Gene, Mitch/Darlene and Jim (Oldbikers) and his wife Bea were packed and ready to hit the road. Since the Colorado group led by Joel (Waterman) was heading the same way we were, we decided that we would ride South together and then split up at Sydney, NE. Joel's group would then head West for Colorado and my group would continue South for Burlington, CO. So, some 8-10 of us took off from Custer at about 9:00am.

I planned for us to make our way home through Nebraska and Kansas because I had never ridden there before and I wanted to post those two states on my "visited states" list. Plus it gave the rest of the riders the same opportunity.

We made good time on our journey for the day. On our way out of Custer, we ran into a herd of buffalo taking their time getting across Hwy. 385. We then fueled and took a break in Chadron, NE. then made our way into Sydney, NE. and stopped for lunch and fuel. We said goodbye to Joel, Ells and the Colorado group and headed East on I-80, then South on Hwy 385. Me, Jeff, Gene, Mitch/Darlene and Jim/Bea made it into Burlington, CO. about 4:30pm and checked into the Comfort Inn for the night. It just so happens that there was a steak house located next door, so we made our way over there to eat a good meal.

Tomorrow, we continue heading South and Southeast into Kansas and Oklahoma.

Saturday, June 20, 2009
410 mile day - Weather: partly cloudy with rain

All of us were packed up and ready to go by 8:00am. Jim and Bea had left earlier that morning. Today would be the longest day on the trip as far as miles are concerned. We were to travel through Kansas and into Oklahoma where we would stay the night in Clinton, OK.

Not only would today prove to be long, but it proved to be the wettest. Although the temps were somewhat cool, it rained on us most of the day. Since I'm a Wyatt Earp fan, I planned it to where we would detour a little and stop in Dodge City, KS. on our way South into Oklahoma. We arrived in Dodge City at about noon and stopped to eat lunch and fuel.

When we arrived in Oklahoma, a line of thunderstorms was making its way across the area. We stopped in a little town called Rosston and had to wait out some of the storms due to the hard rain coming down. Eventually, we continued our journey and made it into Clinton at about 6:00pm.

We checked into a hotel then made our way to a Chinese food restaurant. Tomorrow, we make our way home.


Sunday, June 21, 2009
365 mile day - Weather: clear skies, hot temps

We all got up and left Clinton, OK. about 9:30am. Today, Jeff and I would make it home. But, for Mitch and Darlene, who live South of New Orleans, LA., this would be another travel day for them. We made our way East on I-40 and then looped South through Oklahoma City and headed South on I-35 toward Texas.

The temps were getting hot due to the sun being out. A stark difference from the day before when we rode through the Oklahoma monsoon. I guess Oklahoma is like Texas...wait around enough and the weather will change.

We stopped and ate lunch in Ardmore, OK. Then we proceeded South on I-35 until we came to Denton, TX. We then headed East on Hwy. 380. Jeff dropped of from the group at McKinney and headed South to his home in Mesquite. Mitch/Darlene and myself continued on 380 to Greenville, then we took Hwy. 69 from Greenville into Lindale. Mitch and Darlene decided to stay the night in Lindale and then head home to Louisiana the next day.

I made it home about 5:00pm...the trip was officially over. And while I had a blast traveling to and from Custer, I was ready to get home and settle back into my life.

In conclusion, I feel that the rally was a huge success. I contribute that to not only the KawaNOW staff that helped me with the planning, but I credit everyone that attended. The rally was successful due to their love and passion for the Nomad. That's what brought us together for this great event. We plan to hold another KawaNOW National Rally in 2011. I look forward to it.

- Trip

All information on this website including photographs, graphics and documents reside with Robert Hilliard unless otherwise stated.
All requests to use material from this page should be sent to Robert Hilliard.