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Unsung Motorcycle Heroes III: Paul Pepe Of Ride Lake Superior
Paul Pepe has been a few things, including truck driver, landscaper and government official, but now his title is Manager of Tourism for the City of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada – a city of 109,000 on the north shore of Lake Superior. In fact it’s the biggest city on the lake (the second biggest one being Duluth, Minnesota, on the western tip of the big lake they call Gichiegumee). It’s sort of all the same to Paul, who thinks of the whole lake as really having no border even though of course it does split its time between the U.S. and Canada.
Technically, it’s Paul’s job to get people to visit Thunder Bay, but the whole lake has always been his playground since he was a kid. When he was 40 years old, he discovered a whole new way to open it up to people: motorcycles.
'We started working on 'Ride Lake Superior' as a tourism development project with my chums Carol Caputo, Chris Hughes and Terry Mattson,' explains Pepe, adding he got help building it out from a rider’s perspective from Harley Owner’s Group member John Trevisanutto and Larry Lasge, owner of Excalibur Motorcycle Works.
'Meeting these enthusiastic folks, and by extension other riders I met working bike shows, gave me the bug to just jump in. Everyone I met in the riding community were just all nice people, and that was was uplifting for me. I wrote my beginners license, bought myself a new KLR650 as a birthday gift, took a training course and the rest is history.
'Riding is my therapy,' Pepe continues. 'I’m always happy on the bike, I always forget about the things that annoy or stress me out, and I love meeting people who want to talk and ride bikes. I spend a lot of time encouraging other 40-year-olds to take up riding and talking to their spouses about why it’s okay to let them.
'Since then, lots of people have told me they wish they’d taken up riding when they were younger, and I always tell them you can start anytime! I did! I always talk about breaking down the geopolitical boundaries, and motorcycles seem to be the ideal vehicles for doing that.
'One night we were sitting around and Thunder Bay was on a bar napkin. Somebody wrote Duluth on it, then Sault Ste. Marie, and the idea just sort of hit me that we need to do something to get people to come enjoy the whole Lake Superior experience, instead of each town pulling against the others, we need to form a collective, make the pie bigger for everybody: We need businesses, dealerships, provincial governments, working together to create a rider-centric experience… and that’s what Ride Lake Superior is all about; there’s a 1300-mile ribbon of asphalt that goes completely around the world’s biggest lake, filled with curves, elevation changes, non-stop views, secluded beaches – not to mention the thousands of miles of logging roads that make the area paradise for dual-sport and adventure riders, too. High-mileage guys do it in three or four days; cruisers take their time, and lots of people come back again and again.'
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