The Camp 10 - Ken Johnson
We are in the midst of autumn, with the crisp mornings and changing leaves. Why not get out for a bike ride with OutSpokin’KC? This month I am featuring Ken Johnson, who has returned to the Kansas City area and is working hard to revive this LGBT bike group. Time to get out and enjoy the weather while it’s still nice!
1. You founded the bicycling group Outspokin’ in Kansas City. Could you tell me what led you to found this group?
Actually, my good friend Regina Oetting founded OutSpokin’KC around 2000. When she moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2007, I took the leadership role and continued the group until I moved to Portland myself in 2009.
2. You moved to Portland for a while, but are back in the area now. I understand that you’re working to get Outspokin’ up and riding again. How has the response been?
Yes, I moved back to Kansas City a year ago last summer and continued biking on my own and with friends. After spending the summer away this year, I returned home and decided it was time to revive OutSpokin’KC. I missed riding with the group and decided it was time to breathe life back into the organization. Kansas City autumn is prime riding season, so I created a Facebook page and will eventually stop managing the old email list we used to share information with our riders. We had about 250 riders on our Yahoo groups email list and have just started building the Facebook group, but I receive several requests almost every day to join the group, so response has been great so far.
3. How often does the group meet for rides, and how do you get the word out about them?
Historically, we have ridden every Saturday morning during typical Midwestern cycling season. Some riders have led weekend afternoon or evening rides, and sometimes we’ve ridden during the week in the evening. We actually ride most every month when weather permits. One of the great things about our group is that anyone can lead a ride by simply posting to the group meeting details like date, time, location and a little information about the ride. OutSpokin’KC is open to anyone, and information about rides can be found on Facebook by searching for outspokin’kc or at OutSpokinKC expand=1]/a>.
4. Besides cycling, what other outdoor activities interest you?
Anything outside! In addition to road cycling, I mountain bike as often as I can. My trinity is hiking, biking and paddling, although I sold my kayak when I moved. I love to backpack and camp in the summer and ski, snowboard and snowshoe in the winter. I spent two months at elevation in Colorado this summer and remembered how much I loved being there. My years in Oregon were great in that the things I loved were so accessible, but I actually found I did more of them when I had to make the effort to drive 13 hours to get to the mountains.
5. Do you still manage to get outdoors for activities during the winter months?
I love winter sports! And by winter, I mean things in the mountains. I ski, snowboard and snowshoe as often as I can. Living in Kansas City, I get to ski only two or three weeks in a season, so I like to make each trip count. In fact, I’m trying to plan out my trips for this season right now. I generally don’t go to warmer climates. I went to Hawaii a few years ago and rode my bike about 250 miles around the Big Island and then hiked about 22 miles along the Na Pali coast on Kauai. My friends tell me Hawaii is not really like that, so I’m considering returning to check out this thing they keep talking about called a “beach.”
6. Were you involved in any LGBT organizations during your time in Portland?
No, not in Portland. I was fairly active in the community for 20 years in Missouri before moving to Oregon. The issues are still important to me, but it was time to let a new generation of leaders continue the work. In living in both the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, I found the need to find our tribe to be greater here. Here you can find gay everything … gay biking, gay bowling, gay softball, gay volleyball, gay darts, you name it, we do it gay. The overall culture in Portland was generally so much more open and accepting that if you wanted to get into something, you just did it, and you’d still probably meet gay people who also loved doing it.
7. What brought you back to the Kansas City area?
A lot of things, really. My work, primarily. I have always worked in Kansas City, even when living in Portland. I commuted almost monthly to Kansas City and work remotely when I’m not in town. I missed my Kansas City family. I love, love, loved Portland and still return when I can. Travel is a passion of mine. Fortunately, my work allows me to connect from anywhere, and I take full advantage of that ability.
8. Are you a Royals fan? What do you think about all of the baseball madness going on in the city right now?
Isn’t everyone a Royals fan right now? Actually, I’m more a college sports fan. I struggle with the pro-sports money machine and tend to enjoy sports for the love of the game. Don’t get me started on the professional sports effect on collegiate athletics. However, I have enjoyed the post-season play and have a lot of love for the Royals. The players deserve everything they’ve achieved this season, and the fans have been waiting for this a long time. #BeRoyal
9. You have a beautiful new friend, your puppy Ele! What led you to adopt her?
She is my everything! I had an incredible journey with my last dog, an English Mastiff who lived to be 10½