By Gabby Landsverk, Sun Sailor Newspapers
It’s the perfect time of year for cycling, as enthusiasts across the metro break out their bikes for a jaunt to the local brew pub or leisurely trail ride. But what about a 1,200 mile trip, including across a mountain?
A Minnetonka Police officer did just that, logging the miles in a May trip across the East Coast to honor and raise funds for families of officers killed in the line of duty.
Officer Mike Johnson, formerly of the Hopkins Police Department, lives in Lakeville. Throughout his law enforcement career, he has been a staunch supporter of COPS, Concerns Of Police Survivors, which provides resources for the families of fallen officers.
Johnson, who grew up in Hutchinson, started his law enforcement career right out of high school, at age 18, as a community service and bike patrol officer. He joined the Hopkins department after completing a college law enforcement program, serving, among other roles, as a leader in the bike patrol division. He is one of just 15 officers statewide in the role of bike patrol instructor.
He recently accepted a position with the Minnetonka department, which includes old classmates from Hutchinson, including friend and fellow biker Trevor Johnson, who is no relation.
Last year, Johnson became the first officer in Minnesota to be selected as a mentor for the COPS children’s program, a camp for children of fallen officers to meet their peers and talk about their experiences.
“These kids are in a unique spot. One of them introduced himself as ‘Hi, I’m Josh, you want to hear how my dad died?’” Johnson said. “This is an opportunity to them to feel normal.”
As a mentor, Johnson has witnessed youngsters open up and talk about the death of a parent for the first time.
“It’s an incredibly amazing, emotional experience,” he said. He continued to stay in touch with the campers long after the program is over, checking in, offering mentorship and support.
During the past five years, Johnson has participated in the organization’s annual bike ride fundraiser, biking the 250-mile route in three days. Last year, he choose the long way around, logging just under 1,000 miles.
This year, he decided to outdo his previous efforts with the ultimate challenge, trekking a total of 1,263 miles (according to his GPS) by bike and raising more than $1,500 for COPS.
“It’s by far the longest ride I’ve ever done,” Johnson said.
The ride, scheduled over the course of 12 days, requires rigorous physical fitness and endurance to complete. Johnson said his training consisted of biking as much as possible prior to the event. With daily rides of as long as 134 miles, one of which includes a trek up a mountain, Johnson joked that he wished he would have prepared more.
“That moment, biking up a mountain, was when I almost called it quits. I remember thinking, ‘This is insane,’” he said. The view, he added, was incredible.
But gorgeous scenery wasn’t the only rewarding part of the trip.
Johnson’s ride was in honor of a very special fallen officer: Aaron Christian, of Ohio, who was killed in a car crash in the line of duty in 2016. Just 24 years old, Christian left behind a 2-year-old daughter, who was waiting for Johnson at the bike ride’s finish line in Washington, D.C.
The young girl, normally shy around strangers, family said, immediately greeted Johnson with an enthusiastic hug.
Johnson, who has a young daughter of his own, said it was an emotional moment.
“Just seeing how much it meant to the family made the long ride well worth it,” he said.”It was very rewarding.”
Contact Gabby Landsverk at [email protected]