In the beginning, the tall, white-haired man was a casual cyclist who only rode his mountain bike around his neighborhood and had never dreamed of going on a bicycle tour. But a friend convinced Moses to accompany him on a long ride along the waters under the heavens many, many years ago.
And behold, it was very good.
The event League of Michigan Bicyclists had created—a 300-mile bike tour that took 250 riders up the Lake Michigan coast from Three Oaks to Traverse City—was so good, in fact, that George Moses, a 72-year-old magazine publisher from Brighton, has ridden a Shoreline Bike Tour every year since their genesis with that inaugural edition in 1987. The only year he didn't pedal on the evolving West Tour was 1992, when he gave the now-defunct East Tour along northern Lake Huron a spin.
With 29 consecutive Shorelines, you could say he's attained an exalted status among his fellow cyclists. Why does he ride LMB's largest and longest tour every summer?
"There's no other state blessed by so much fresh blue water or by such an abundance of green landscapes," Moses said. "I like the charming towns we ride through and camp in, Michigan's beautiful western shoreline and beaches, Bubba's pampering service (Bubba's Pampered Pedalers, which provides set-up tents, air mattresses, snacks and other amenities for bicycle tourists) and the simple rhythm of riding up the coast with my friends."
He's particularly fond of Cherry Point Farm and Market in Shelby, Pentwater's restaurants, shops and sandy beach at Mears State Park and the eateries, lighthouse and sunsets in Frankfort.
"LMB staff members and volunteers really care about bicycling and all of us on the tour," Moses added. "Their hard work planning the ride and their support all day long gives me the opportunity to be completely carefree."
LMB Executive Director John Lindenmayer presented George with a Certificate of Appreciation that included a complimentary registration for the 2016 West Tour during Shoreline West 29’s first riders' meeting at Montague High School on August 1.
Moses was grateful for the honor, but maintained his humility.
"I don't feel any more important than anyone else," he said. "I'm just a bike rider like the rest of them. But it's great to be in the midst of so many nice people who come up and introduce themselves and wish me well."
"It's a great pleasure to have George ride with us year after year," said Lindenmayer. "We have many repeat riders, but none like George. He always brings a genuine smile and is quick to share interesting stories from the road. West often feels like a family reunion as riders reunite from across the country, and it's fun to see folks come together like this around our tours."
Moses was joined on the ride for the fifth straight year by his daughter Kim-Nora, a 52-year-old resident of New York City who serves as a volunteer at the Central Park Zoo and for environmental causes.
"I'm blessed to have a daughter who will come all the way from New York just to be with her dad and go biking and camping for a whole week," said Moses. "It's a great father and daughter experience, to be sure. We enjoyed this year's tour immensely; perfect weather all week (except for a major storm that ripped through northwest Michigan on August 2 and a great crowd of friendly riders."
Kim-Nora Moses doesn't buy her father's "I'm just a biker like the rest of them" claim.
"Of course he's a celebrity!" she said. "People may know me through my father's fame: 'You're George's daughter, aren't you?' So I have to behave!
"I want to spend as much unadulterated quality time with my father as I can," Kim-Nora added. "He is a man who is generous with himself as well as with his time, especially with regard to his children. And I want to honor that quality by spending time with Dad doing the things he loves to do. The time I spend with my dad on this ride is sacred to me."
The extra time they share in the saddle, she said, illustrates her father's unselfishness.
"Dad slows way down for me," said Kim-Nora, who doesn't own a bike in Manhattan. "That's what I mean; my father is generous enough to sacrifice getting into camp at a decent hour—because he's waiting for me. He's a very strong rider, and outpaces his younger buddies by a mile on their morning rides back home."
George and his wife Melanie—"my biggest supporter"—have been married for 42 years and are business partners as well. They publish The Marketeer, a 100-page monthly shopping magazine that covers Livingston County and is mailed to over 69,000 homes.
In addition to being a long-standing LMB member, George belongs to The League of American Bicyclists, Ann Arbor Bicycle Touring Society, the Brighton Rotary Club, Brighton Optimist Club and four area chambers of commerce. He also serves on the board of directors for a few nonprofit organizations, including the famed Purple Rose Theatre Company—founded by Chelsea actor Jeff Daniels in 1991—the Howell Opera House and the Brighton Center for the Performing Arts.
The Shoreline West Tour, which now takes about 500 cyclists 386 miles along Lake Michigan from Montague to the Mackinac Bridge, was a true family affair for the Moses clan in 2012. George's 48-year-old son Ray, an organic farmer who also lives in Brighton, met up with his father and sister that August for the last two days of the tour. Melanie stayed at a hotel in Petoskey for two nights, then greeted them at the finish line in Mackinaw City.
One month after he finished his latest West Tour, George and Melanie embarked on a thrilling two-week journey across South Africa, which he called "a photographer's paradise."
"I shot over 4,500 photos of wildlife there," George said. "We were steeped in nature as we've never seen it before. It was an incredibly refreshing adventure."
The advertising major who went to work in The Lansing State Journal's ad department the day after he graduated from Michigan State University in June, 1964—and whose marketing career has now spanned over a half-century—also dabbles in aerial photography with his Phantom 3 drone.
Naturally, George shares many of his favorite pics, with comments, on his Facebook page. A sampling of his land-based commentary during the 2015 West Tour: "Wonderful day today on the road (to Ludington) ... warm and sunny all day." "My climb up Killer Hill, hundreds of watermelon slices await!" "Today is a day of rest. Browsing at the Traverse City farm market." "Sunrise in Camp-O-Bubba!" "After two flat tires we stopped for coffee in Elk Rapids." "For the 29th straight year, Melanie was waiting with her camera (in Mackinaw City) to record our completion of the Shoreline West Bicycle Tour!"
Besides bicycling and photography, Moses enjoys working with computers. "I've built over 30 computers and maintain all of them at our business," he said.
That interest led him to meet two of his other West Tour cycling companions, Plymouth residents Howard Ring, 61, and his wife Jodi. George met Howard, a retired systems analyst for Ford Motor Company, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in the mid-'80s. George's Shoreline tales eventually inspired Howard to join him on the West Tour, and the two techies have now shared over 20 Shoreline rides. Jodi Ring, a retired teacher who helps her husband pedal their aluminum Santana Sovereign tandem, has accompanied them 17 times.
"George and Shoreline are one of the good things in my life," Howard Ring said. "One of those things you never want to see change. Hopefully it won't for a good many years."
George grew up in Detroit, attended Annunciation Catholic School through the 8th grade and graduated from Grosse Pointe High School in 1960, He said he doesn't mind the inevitable Biblical Moses jokes.
"At the age of 72, I've heard them all," he added, and offered up a couple of his favorites.
God to Moses: "Take these two tablets and call me in the morning."
Don't give up! Moses was once a basket case.
After sharing these groaners, Moses—the one who used to deliver "over 75 thick copies" of The Detroit News on his Schwinn Cruiser seven days a week, the one who, at 6-foot-4, towers over most of his fellow West Tour riders in the cafeteria lines, the one who enjoys "getting positive exercise without being in a gym" on those sunrise rides with his pals around Kent Lake in Kensington Metropark and now racks up 1,000 to 1,500 miles every year on his navy blue Trek 5500 carbon fiber road bike—proposed an 11th Commandment.
"Thou shalt not ride three abreast."
Then the self-described optimist—still youthful even with that distinctive head of curly white hair—added one more bit of wisdom that, not surprisingly, touched on an activity close to his heart.
"I decided when I was a kid that I was never going to grow up," saith George Moses, humble Shoreline West legend. "So I guess I still have that childlike feeling of the joy of living—and there's nothing better to connect you with your childhood than riding a bicycle. I look forward to the West Tour all year."
Wise man indeed, that Moses. Our Moses. After all, riding your bike along a beautiful blue Great Lake for a week sure beats wandering around a scorching desert for 40 years.
—Berkley, Michigan-based freelance writer Ron Campbell is a veteran of numerous Shoreline West Bicycle Tours.