Longform

The Sedona 's 5's Excellent Adventure

Page 6 of 7

"True, we didn't intend to start a snowball rolling," says Wheeze. "But intentional, unintentional . . . whatever. The fact is, we have generated momentum. And I'm into pushing this as far as we can just to see what gives."

The Sedona 5 may have accidentally built a soapbox, but only the Sedona one and a half have clambered up with something to say. The focus of life for Forest, Long Tall and Dangerous Dave has remained much the same after the canyon ride as it was before--drums to make, spines to adjust, trails to ride, bowls to smoke and berries to eat. Those three say they'll take part in future "Sedona 5"-sponsored protest rides, but when it comes to furthering the group's cause--and its notoriety--they're just along for the ride.

Rama is working with Wheeze to organize a sequel to the first canyon ride--a public civil disobedience action this time, instead of another stealth ride. He talks of the chance to channel the gut-level public response into an informed challenge to the Park Service policy against mountain bikes. But there is considerably more slack in his tone than in Wheeze's.

"The big question now is whether we'll be able to actually rally the mountain bikers or if we're just blowin' in the wind, and a year from now we'll be back to doing joy rides," Rama says. "Either way is fine with me."

Beyond a narrative description and photos of the original canyon ride, the primary feature of the Sedona 5 Web site is a specific policy proposal for opening the Grand Canyon to mountain bikes. The plan is listed under the heading "The Sedona 5 . . . Latest Solution for the Canyon," but Wheeze wrote and posted it himself.

Under the proposal, the Park Service would open the Grand Canyon's major trails on both rims exclusively to mountain bikers the first Monday of every month (the bikers agree it would be too dangerous to share the trail with mule trains). All other days, bikes would be banned as usual. Every biker would pay the same trail fee as hikers, plus whatever it costs to widen the paths in a few of the sketchiest sections.

The plan also pledges that the Sedona 5 will organize and manage a volunteer mountain-biker trail maintenance program for the Grand Canyon if the plan is implemented--a promise all five of the bikers say they'll keep.

Wheeze has not formally submitted his proposal to the Park Service or any other government agency. But he points out that the Sedona 5 Web site is regularly hit by government servers. "We monitor their propaganda," Herring confirms. The Sedona 5 plan, he says, has no chance. "Too administratively cumbersome. Too exclusive. There are no bikes allowed below the rim in part because they cannot safely share the trails, but also, again, because mountain biking does not fit with the philosophical intent of national wilderness."

Wheeze says that philosophy is obsolete. "There are too many mountain bikers now," he says. "We are citizens of this country, too. We represent a massive user group, and we should be allowed to enjoy the national parks our way." Convincing the government of that, he says, is a matter of enough bikers taking to the streets.

Or, as it were, the trails.
The Sedona 5 Web site includes an "MTB Recon" page with advisory bulletins on riding illegally in national parks across the country--from Lava Beds National Monument in Hawaii to the Presidio in San Francisco. The page requests a donation to help defray the cost of the Sedona 5's restitution and start a legal fund for future civil disobedience rides. So far, Wheeze says, they've gotten a few bike parts, a case of salsa, and enough money to print up a batch of commemorative Sedona 5 tee shirts.

Over the past two months, Wheeze also has compiled a list of mountain bikers who e-mailed requests to be notified in time to join the next canyon ride. At last count, he had just more than 1,000 names, including one each from Germany and Australia.

Neither Rama nor Wheeze will say exactly when the next canyon ride is supposed to happen. "Before the holiday season" is their only hint. In the meantime, Wheeze is talking with ex-Park Service rangers about what radio frequencies and code words the agency uses, looking for a pro bono lawyer, and putting together a list of media organizations to alert just after the ride is under way (the basic plan is to ride slowly down a major trail with a couple of scouts out front to warn hikers and radio trail recon back to the main group).

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David Holthouse
Contact: David Holthouse