The sun creeped in through the translucent curtains of our motel room as morning began on day two of our central Wisconsin moto adventure. The little window unit air conditioner built into its own hole in the wall droned on as it had all night. The room was cool and otherwise quiet as my wife and I rolled out of bed. Today was the day of the Lorem Ipsum Vintage Motorcycle Rally. The day before we’d made our way up from Chicago to arrive under the cover of darkness in the sleepy little town of Boscobel, WI. We were four bikes and five people ready for a day of riding, sights and sounds.

But first, breakfast.

Part of the pleasure of this trip, honestly, was that I planned absolutely none of it. Instead, I was along for the ride, quite literally, on an adventure put together by my usual wingman’s wingwoman, Jen. I’d never even heard of Lorem Ipsum, but Jen had been before and we quickly learned that the appeal of the event is as much the surroundings as the event itself. In particular, central Wisconsin’s network of winding county roads. Nicknamed “alphabet roads” these tarmac paths from nowhere to nowhere usually have simple letter designations such as JJ, BB or the like. Yet before we got into any of that, we’d need fuel for our bikes and ourselves.

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Just up Wisconsin Street from last night’s late supper we found Unique Cafe, which is an institution in these parts. With authentic kitsch on the walls and pancakes in plentiful supply, we all made our own poor nutrition choices before our day’s ride. For me, the biscuits and gravy simply had to be sampled. Eggs and hashbrowns (always get cheese and onions) were also required. Fortified with orange juice and yes, coffee, breakfast was squarely accomplished. Unique Cafe has in authentic spades what every chain diner is trying to package and re-sell across the country. Accept no substitutes. Get the real thing.

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We’d ridden to breakfast, so our trusty moto steeds were waiting for us outside Unique. I was very interested to experience the 1200cc Ducati Multistrada S Granturismo I had for the weekend on some properly interesting roads. The basics of the bike had been established and I was more than comfortable on the machine already, even with my wife as pillion. When Johnny gave me the low down on this bike he was excited that I was taking this particular machine on our little adventure.

“You’re going to love it. Your Tiger 1050 is a sport bike reconfigured for road touring, but the Multistrada is a superbike set up for touring. It’ll be a blast.”

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So far he was right. The Multi had handled our escape from Chicago and brief bit of country road cruising with no problems. I’d put in good mileage on both Urban and Touring mode, but now it was time to click down into Sport and see what the Multistrada could do with some properly fun roads.

Our route for the day was to take the extremely scenic route over to Lorem Ipsum itself — hoping to hit it during its fairly narrow event window between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM. I’m used to bike events that carry on for two-to-three days, but not Lorem Ipsum. The rally, even on a Saturday, wasn’t going to stretch beyond the lunch shift. Fair enough. As Jen and Davin discussed the virtues of one Wisconsin county road over another at our post-breakfast gas stop, it was pretty obvious Lorem Ipsum itself was just the excuse. The alphabet roads were the real event.

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So we set off into the Wisconsin countryside, Jen in the lead, Bree on her wing, Davin in position three and the Multistrada as caboose. Being the last bike in a squadron, I must admit, is a guilty pleasure of mine when I’m on a properly fast motorcycle. Whether its my Triumph Tiger 1050, my hopped-up Bonneville or something like the Multistrada 1200S I had my hands on that weekend, I love chasing down the pack from behind. I love being the last bike to pass a car on a two-lane. Even better if there isn’t room when the rest of the pack gets around. It’s okay, I don’t mind waiting to pass later — and pass I do, two gears down and full throttle as my vision narrows and the landscape goes into hyperdrive blur in my peripherals. Bye bye car. For this kind of work, the Multistrada is very, very good indeed.

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Johnny’s description of the Multistrada as a superbike masquerading as a touring machine gave me a lot of confidence in the bike’s abilities. I knew that under normal riding conditions, I pretty much couldn’t over-ride it. Obviously, I still needed to make good decisions and have good riding form, but between the Multi’s exquisite suspension, sticky tires and onboard ABS/traction control, there was a lot to inspire my confidence. I knew the bike’s limits were so far out there, I need not even really think about them while riding sensibly. So ride I did, passenger in place.

As previously mentioned, the Multistrada 1200S has tall touring gear ratios, so being in the right gear is a must. This meant shifting later while accelerating and downshifting with nearly any scrub of speed. South of 60 mph, you dare not be any higher than 4th gear. This is easy to get used to, and not at all a flaw in the machine’s makeup. It’s simply something you have to know about the character of the bike.

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Character is actually a great word to describe the Multistrada, actually. In particular, that big L-twin engine has character in spades. Many modern motorcycles are too smooth, especially in how they make power. My 2013 Triumph Bonneville, for example. When it was new I would stop at a light and couldn’t tell if it was still running. An exhaust upgrade cured that right quick, and Triumph has since updated their stock exhaust for 2014. That said, you can go too far in the other direction too. Most Harley motors feel like a bowling ball bouncing around inside a washing machine if you ask me. The Multistrada (and most of the Ducati lineup, I might add) strike a terrific balance between good motor feel and smooth operation.

I’d get on the throttle, and that big twin would absolutely come alive with growling aggression, but as soon as I’d pick a speed and set my throttle position, the engine’s vibration would melt away into the chassis and all I’d feel was the road. Clever trick of engineering, that. In a lot of ways, the big Ducati felt like everything I love about riding a vintage bike (i/e engine character) with everything I love about modern motorcycles (great brakes and suspension).

As Wisconsin’s alphabet roads unfolded in front of us, my sense of confidence in the Multistrada’s cornering ability came very quickly. With a good gear selected, I needed only look where I wanted to go and the Multi would do the rest. If the corner’s radius started decreasing, I need only dial in a little more lean and around we’d go. The bike was so composed and planted that I found myself having to purposefully brake a little harder coming into turns not because I needed to scrub more speed to take the corner, but simply so that I didn’t overtake the rest of my riding group.

Bottom line, the Multistrada’s capability made me a better rider. In the hands of the a skilled, aggressive pilot, the Multistrada is downright weapons-grade. My favorite moment was while going around a sharp left-hander at speed, tucking the Multi deep into the turn and feeling the pavement graze the outside edge of my riding boot. I had my heel on the foot peg and not the ball of my foot like I should have. Bad form, but a great feeling that the Multi had been that far over and yet still so composed and predictable. Take it from me, cornering grip is addicting.

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With several letters of the alphabet thoroughly explored, we finally altered our course over to Lorem Ipsum itself. Since this wasn’t my trip, I really had no idea what to expect. The only info I really had was what I’d read on their Facebook page:

The Vintage Motorcycle Rally—All Makes and Models Welcome.

Motorcycle enthusiasts are invited to attend the Lorem Ipsum Vintage Motorcycle Rally at The Forgotten Works Warehouse, 518 Walnut Street in Viroqua, Wisconsin, on Saturday, July 19, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Viroqua is at the heart of an interesting system of state highways and country roads in Wisconsin’s beautiful driftless region. Wrenchers of vintage motorcycles of all makes are especially invited to make the trip—not only for the enjoyable riding, but to show their machines, meet fellow vintage appreciators, and join us for a mid-summer picnic in Viroqua’s historic railroad district.

As the Driftless Center for Slow Media, The Forgotten Works Warehouse encourages immediate relationships with our environment. A motorcyclist, for example, experiences an intimate relationship with the road. Furthermore, a person who services and maintains his own machine has a special appreciation for the beauty and efficiency of transportation on two wheels. The Forgotten Works Warehouse is home to Driftless Books, online dealer of nearly a quarter of a million new, used and rare titles. The bookstore is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday.

I was particularly drawn that term “Driftless” this whole section of Wisconsin uses to describes itself. The term was new to me, but apparently refers to how this particular stretch of Wisconsin was not formed by glacial drift, as other parts of the region were. Yet beyond the geology, there’s a palpable romanticism in this part of Wisconsin that feels inexorably linked to the countryside and its people. It’s almost an attitude, and one I experienced seemingly at the source as we pulled into Viroqua.

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What greeted us was a small street blocked off by a couple cars, a converted railway station and about two dozen motorcycles. That was it. Half those bikes were modern bikes, even. At first glance, I couldn’t help chuckle at the scope of it all. You hear the word “rally” and expect turn out, you know? Yet I soon found I was looking at the event all wrong.

We dismounted and un-geared ourselves. I swapped my riding boots for a more comfortable pair of shoes and grabbed my camera. What Lorem Ipsum lacked in sheer numbers it made up for in interesting bikes and a community spirit that just couldn’t be denied. There was food, bikes, various booths of local this-and-that and even a musical duo adding to the ambiance.

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We walked up and down the two rows of bikes, and what was obvious was that old or new, these were all motorcycles whose owners cared about them to a great degree. It was so far removed from the typical cafe racer scene or monthly bar meetup, not because it was better, but just because it was so simple — so earnest. It was neighborly, like a block party or a church potluck. In short, it was utterly charming.

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Off to one side, facing the rally, was a loading dock entrance to Driftless Books and Music. The seemingly only way in was to climb a steel rung ladder of unknown provenance leading up to the narrow ledge of the loading dock some six feet off the ground. That this somewhat intimidating entrance wasn’t quartered off by flags, cones and litigation-inspired warning signage was instantly refreshing. The attitude was so simple. Welcome to Earth, act at your own risk. Truth is, when I climbed that ladder, I didn’t actually know what was inside. What I found was delightful.

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Driftless Books and Music is as charming a little book store as I’ve ever entered. Everywhere you look is something interesting. From the highly curated micro-collections of books found throughout, to strange curiosities made from all manner of bits and pieces, to sculpture big and small, Driftless Books and Music is a labyrinth of things to see around every aisle. Five minutes wandering the aisles and it became obvious that this was a store curated, not simply by rote categorization, but with a substantial sense of humor. To the casual browser, it’s just another book store, but to the careful eye there’s a sly joke at play every third shelf. In short, it’s a gem of a place smack dab in the middle of nowhere, and for me anyway, it stole the show at Lorem Ipsum. If you find yourself in west central Wisconsin, you owe it to yourself to visit Viroqua just for this little bookstore.

Looking back on it, it’s a shame that Lorem Ipsum only lasts for those three hours. It’s exactly the kind of rally where spending three days would be fantastic, precisely because it’s so spartan and so relaxed. Perhaps that rally is out there somewhere. If you find it, let me know. Yet by being more or less a lunch stop, Lorem Ipsum really gives its visitors the best gift of all: an excuse to get out and ride in some of Wisconsin’s best countryside. As the streets were un-blocked for the end of the rally, it was time for us to do exactly that.

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The five of us climbed back aboard our four bikes for the trip back to Boscobel and another night at The Sands, but as you might expect, we weren’t going to go directly. We had more alphabet roads to explore and I was looking forward to more time on the Multistrada. It was on this return leg in particular that I really found something remarkable along the way.

You see, the best motorcycle ride is the one where I lose track, not of time, but of destination. Even if I’m headed somewhere, there’s that threshold on a bike where after enough time in the saddle, the only thing in my mind is the next corner, and soon, even that fades away. That was the Zen I found aboard the Multistrada on our way back to Boscobel. I had no idea when we’d get there, and truth be told, I didn’t even know what roads we were on most of the time. This wasn’t my trip, remember? Instead, I lost myself in the rhythms of riding that motorcycle. At my fingertips was the soul of the road itself. Between my legs, the engine’s two-piston galloping heart. There I was, as though it was where I’d always been.

Sometimes the best discoveries are simply being reminded of what you already know. On that summer Wisconsin day, carving up yet another alphabet road on a high-end Ducati, I stopped moving and the world turned beneath my wheels. I was reminded of why I ride — why like so many others my mind is never far from my motorcycle. It’s cliche to the point of being laughable, but no less true. Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul.

We arrived back in Boscobel and grabbed dinner at the local hotel-turned-bar-and-restaurant. Our waitress regaled us with stories of the local history, complete with personal sightings of the hotel’s two specters-in-residence. I guess some folks are even driftless beyond the grave.

Our evening unfolded before us as we sampled several of Boscobel’s finer drinking establishments. We each made our own way back to The Sands in our own time and the next morning saw some of us up bright and chipper, and others as unwilling passengers on the hangover struggle bus. Thankfully I was in the former, and I won’t name names on the latter, but day three saw us getting a little later start than we’d originally intended. It’d be freeways again back to Chicago.

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So scamper we did, arriving back in Chicago on time despite a not insignificant amount of traffic backup in southern Wisconsin thanks to road construction. Truth be told, I was kinda sad to return the Multistrada to our demo fleet at Motoworks. It’d been so terrific to ride, but more than that, it’d been great in all those little ways that are so helpful on a long trip. The integrated luggage and fitted bag liners worked like a charm. The Ducati’s proximity key ignition meant no fumbling with the key to run the bike. Just push the buttons and go. There were a dozen little things to love about the Multistrada, and I could go on and on. You’ll just have to come ride it for yourself to see what I mean, however there are two things in particular that I want to call out as being especially fantastic.

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First, the Multistrada’s windshield adjustment is hands-down the best mechanism I’ve ever used. Where other systems make you loosen and tighten various knobs and are impossible to use in-motion, the Ducati system is a simple pinch clamp that can be operated one-handed and at any speed. I could just pinch the handles between my thumb and fingers and snatch the windshield up or down into whatever position I needed. It was the next best thing to a power-adjustable shield. In the long run, I’d like a little more wind coverage than the Multistrada offers out of the box, but that said, wind shelter is decent and more importantly, buffeting and turbulence is almost zero.

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The other thing I adored about the Multistrada was how the throttle responded when I’d first roll it on. Many modern, fuel-injected motorcycles have what almost feels like a shelf when you first get on the throttle. You go from nothing to say 10% power, with no ramp-up in between. This on/off throttle feel gets more and more disconcerting the bigger and more powerful the bike. The Multistrada 1200S, on the other hand, because of its perfectly tuned ride-by-wire throttle system, has that gentle initial throttle response such a big, powerful bike really needs. For example, if I was coming up onto a turning circle and braking down into second gear, I could roll onto the throttle in that slow, deep turn without any fear that the bike would lurch forward with too much power and upset itself. Every time, the bike’s response was smooth and completely predictable. For low-speed maneuvering especially, this is something Ducati has gotten very right.

Looking back, it was certainly a weekend well spent. Now I get it. Now I understand why Jen goes back year after year. It’s a great excuse to get out and do some riding on roads fit for the best that people and motorcycles can throw at them. I’ll definitely have my eye on the calendar for it next year. Here’s hoping there’s another Multistrada demo in the Motoworks fleet that I can commandeer.