Kamas: Could this be a Great Place to Bike Commute? Kerry Lambert Thinks it is

Kelly Lambert and Bicycles in Kamas Utah
Kelly Lambert with some of his students. Photo courtesy Kelly Lambert.

By Lou Melini

Kamas is a small town in Summit County, 16 miles from Park City, and is the gateway to the Western Uinta Mountains. It has several main roads and many back roads that are sometimes frequented by cyclists looking to get out of the Salt Lake smog in winter and the heat of summer. Fifty-Eight year-old Kerry Lambert lives and bike commutes in Kamas.

Cycling Utah: Kerry, what attracts you to the town of Kamas?

Kerry Lambert: I have lived in the small town of Kamas for most of my life. I have tried big city living but there is not much there that I enjoy and plenty that I don’t. I like it here because if an activity has something to do with the outdoors I am probably enjoying it now, or would like it if I tried it. Kamas provides easy access to many of these activities. Here I find some great places for both road and mountain biking. I also fish, hunt, hike, backpack, cross-country ski and within a few miles of my home I can participate in 4 different triathlons at the local reservoirs.

C.U.: Your family also shares your interests I understand.

K.L.: I have 5 daughters and a wife who I share my adventures with. My youngest is finishing her schooling at Utah State right now and the oldest just turned 30. As my children were born, and each was a girl, I began to wonder if I would ever have a fishing and hunting partner. I have discovered that girls can enjoy rugged outdoor activities as easily as us guys. My daughters and wife have become my best friends through our participation together in hundreds of activities through the years

C.U.: How does your profession relate to bike commuting?

K.L.: I am an eighth grade science teacher and my love of science complements my love of wild places and wild things. Science has also taught me the need, and the how, to take care of this world that gives me so much. I would like my great grandchildren to be able to enjoy all I have enjoyed. For this reason I am very conservative in my use of our natural resources. For example, each September I teach my classes about climate change, our role in it as humans, and the possible consequences if we keep using fossil fuels at the present rate. I share with them a few of the things I do to reduce the amount of carbon I introduce to the atmosphere such as the home my wife and I built ourselves. Our home makes use of solar energy and in effect burns no fossil fuels. One of the things I tell my students that I do, whenever it is reasonably possible, is ride a bike instead of driving. To make this possible we chose to build our home near the stores and church in Kamas so we could walk or bike to anywhere we needed to go. This would include my daily commute to school. In my 34 years of teaching I have only driven to school when I must get something to my classroom that is too big or heavy to carry on my bike. This means an average of maybe 2 driven trips a year. I take pride in making it to work with zero carbon emissions, so, regardless of how cold it is or how much snow is on the road I ride a bike. Kamas does get a lot of snow and it is common for the roads to be snow packed for weeks at a time, but it has amazed me how good skinny tires are in the stuff. However, I almost look forward to really bad conditions because then I get to break out my mountain bike and enjoy the challenge of staying upright.

Now, before I make it sound like my commute is like a trip to the South Pole, I live only a mile from school and since I like riding it really is no sacrifice for me. I carry my lunch and any stuff I might need for the day’s science experiment in a small backpack. If the roads are wet I wear some old sweats to keep my clothes dry. Another pair sits in a drawer at school if it rains during the day.

My bike sitting outside my classroom is also a ready-made science lesson. We study simple machines in 8th grade and I have the kids identify the machines that make up my bike. We learn how simple machines can either multiply force or speed, and examine how the machines on a bike can do both. They try to operate the brake to stop a spinning wheel without the mechanical advantage of the break handle (a first class lever). We learn about gear ratios by comparing the turns produced at the rear wheel compared to the turns made at the pedals (a wheel and axle) and how different gear ratios can be used to negotiate hills more easily or give us speed on the flats or down hills. We learn about the efficiency of simple machines — a comparison of the work going into the machine to the useful work coming out. We look at the energy I lose with the fat knobby tires of my mountain bike compared to my $30 Schwinn commuting bike. We then look at my tri-bike and talk about the importance of weight and aerodynamics in efficiency.

C.U.: After these lessons on energy efficiency, have some of your students caught the cycling bug?

K.L.: I would like to be able to say that my use of my bike at school has increased bike riding by my students. However, the trend over the last twenty years seems to be the opposite. Kids unquestionably buy into what friends, the television, and the general culture tells them and the message from all these sources seems to be dependence on our vehicles and the oil they use. Also, even though kids will never admit it, they get most of their attitudes from their parents. When mom drives them everywhere that is how they will probably get around as adults. I was raised very differently. If any of us were to ask our moms to take us somewhere the first response would have been, “what’s wrong with your bike?” Maybe that is why I like to ride so much. My bike took me all over the Kamas Valley as a kid and I probably associate it with the adventures we had and the independence and control over my life it gave me. I am happy to report that there is nothing wrong with my bike and plenty right with biking.

C.U.: Do others like you commute by bike?

K.L.: I have a friend who commutes from Oakley to Park City where he is a lawyer. His round trip ride is about 30 miles. He figures he makes the ride on about 60% of his working days each year. Now that’s commitment! Sadly he and I are the only two I know who regularly use a bike as a means of transportation. Many will drive a few blocks to our local recreation center and there run on the treadmill or ride a stationary bike but starting their workout with a walk or bike ride doesn’t seem to be part of their thinking process. This has always puzzled me because Kamas is such an easy place to get around on a bike. There is little traffic on the back streets, the air is clean, and there are lots of friendly people to say hi to. When the health benefits, money saved, and better world for future generations are all considered, getting around on a bike in our small community is the only logical decision for me.

C.U.: Kamas is a bit cooler than Salt Lake City. What are some of the average temperatures (highs and lows) in the Kamas area?

K.L.: You have come to right place to get average temperatures as we record the daily weather for the National Weather Service: March 46/22, April 55/27, May 65/35, June 76/41, July 85/49, August 83/47, September 74/38, October 62/30.

C.U.: In addition to your bike commute, what are some of your favorite rides that you can recommend to Cycling Utah readers?

K.L.: There are many options for nice bike rides around the valley. My criteria for a nice ride are a combination of scenery, low traffic, and wide shoulders on the road. The route I take most often starts by traveling west from Kamas on HW 248 then turns south before 248 climbs the hill. From there I have several country road options that take me through or around the town of Francis on my way to the river bottoms of the town of Woodland. In Woodland I usually turn right at the Woodland LDS church and use the seldom-traveled (by bike or car) road of Bench Creek. I usually return on this same road but at times of low traffic I will use highway 35 to take me back towards Francis. I then use back roads to get me the rest of the way back to Kamas. This route is right around 25 miles.

Wolf Creek Pass is my favorite hill workout. If I am really ambitious I will make this an extension of the ride I just described but usually I use HW 35 just past the last homes in upper Woodland and start the ride there. This is a beautifully forested mountain road that has a steady climb with about 2500 feet of elevation gain. The road can be quite busy on the weekends but has a wide shoulder.

Another good hill workout is the Mirror Lake Highway (150) going east from Kamas. This is the route used for the Over the Top race in June each year. This race goes all the way to Evanston. Most of the route is a gentle to moderate slope but it gets very steep towards the top of Bald Mountain Pass. Beautiful scenery but the road is extremely busy, especially on weekends, and has very little shoulder. About the only times I bike this road is in May on weekdays and in late Fall. My aversion to log trucks and people trying to watch scenery, text, and drive all at the same time keeps me off the Mirror Lake Highway most of the time.

Weber Canyon offers a ride with a gradual steady upward slope. Most riders use the main canyon road from Oakley as an out and back but I like to start at the south east corner of Oakley at the intersection of New Lane and Boulderville road. This is near the big turn in highway 32 as it leaves Oakley heading toward Kamas. I then use the Boulderville road to connect to the Weber Canyon Road where I continue east for about 15 miles. The Weber canyon road ends for most riders where it forks into two graveled roads. One goes to Smith Morehouse reservoir and the other goes to the Thousand Peaks Ranch.

Two more rides that are a mix of country roads and highways that begin at Democrat Alley (Republicans are allowed to ride here too). I access it from Kamas by riding west on highway 248 and turning right on Democrat Alley just before 248 goes up the hill. This road has very light traffic and nice views of the Kamas Valley. After about 4 miles the road becomes hard packed gravel but only for about 1.5 miles. For a dirt road, it’s pretty smooth and my road bike handles it nicely. This road ends at a T-junction. Turning right takes you up Rob Young Lane that intersects with highway 32 close to where I get on the Boulderville road to do the Weber Canyon ride I described above. I often come this way and follow the Boulderville road to Weber Canyon where I turn left and follow it for 3 or 4 miles to New Lane which leads me back to highway 32 and on to Kamas, a trip of about 17 miles.

If you turn left when the dirt road meets the T-junction you are on the Woodenshoe Road. This is a beautiful ride through the community of Woodenshoe and on to Peoa. Just past Peoa I turn left onto the Browns Canyon road, which is a long climb to Highway 248. Turning left here will take you back to Kamas. This loop is about 25 miles and has two major hills to climb.

C.U.: Thanks Kerry. That should provide a weekend of rides for any cyclist coming to Kamas.

If you have a suggestion for a commuter profile, have a commuter question, or other comments, please send it to [email protected].

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