Staff writer Sam Moses, 28, whose inquiry into the wild and woolly sport of motorcycle hillclimbing begins on page 26, says he never wrote a line ("Not so much as a grocery list") until six years ago when he was stationed aboard the cruiser St. Paul in the South China Sea. Then, in letters to family and friends, he began writing vignettes of military life. When he was discharged two years and many vignettes later, Moses drifted through Europe, earning gas money by covering races for Motor Cycle Weekly and doing some racing himself. In 1971 Sam returned to the U.S. and enrolled in a journalism course at San Diego State. He recalls those classes as something of a drag. "They figured it took three months to learn how to write an obituary." So four months later, when Motor Cycle Weekly offered him a job as feature editor, Moses dropped out of school and became a full-time journalist. A year later he became managing editor of the California-based monthly Cycle Guide.
Moses' first free-lance assignment for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED came the following year, a profile of motorcycle champion Kenny Roberts. Shadowing Roberts at the Daytona 200 road race led Moses into an adventure that brought him to the attention of the accounting department as well as SI readers. As Moses tells it, he was sipping a beer after a hot afternoon of racing when he spotted a food wagon on the beach. He headed toward it. "Suddenly," he recalls, "I was spread-eagled alongside a patrol car by two Daytona cops, frisked and loaded onto a paddy wagon." It is illegal to drink beer on the "World's Most Famous Beach." Moses was released on $35 bail, an item he conscientiously entered under Miscellaneous Expenditures when he turned in his expense report for the trip.
Sam became a member of SI's staff nine months ago and the spirit of adventure is still with him. Recently, researching another motor sports story, he acted as co-driver for off-road racer Walker Evans in the Baja 500. Starting 53rd in a field of nearly 400, theirs was the third vehicle over the finish line and first in class. Weekends, Moses leaves his Manhattan apartment to claw his way up cliffs in New York's Shawangunk Mountains, a hobby he came upon as a result of his feature story on a 10-day Outward Bound course in which he had to take up rock-climbing to stay within interviewing distance of his subjects. Of course, Sam still finds time to occasionally ride his motorcycle. He sometimes takes along his mostly golden retriever as company, the dog riding in front of him as they boom down the roads around Sam's hometown of Hollidaysburg, Pa.
Moses has come a long way, most of it quickly, since that grocery list he says he never wrote. Perhaps former racer Mickey Thompson's self-description in a story Moses wrote some months ago might just as easily apply to the author: "I'm not like most of these other guys.... Their problem is how to go faster, my problem is how to get myself to slow down."