One Fast Dude & More | Nebraska Stories | NET Nebraska

One Fast Dude & More | Nebraska Stories | NET Nebraska


VOICEOVER: Coming
up on Nebraska Stories, one of the fastest track
riders in the world. The legendary mechanic
behind the winning 1958 Monza Roadster. The little known history of Nebraska’s
tuberculosis hospital. And carving an niche
in crane country. (upbeat guitar) (gears spinning) NARRATOR:
Let’s just say it, Ashton Lambie’s a
really interesting dude. (rock music) There’s the handlebar
mustache, tattoos, tree trunk legs, a music
performance major in college, analytical mind, laid
back personality. Plus he can effortlessly
rip down a country road at 25 miles an hour. (upbeat guitar) ASHTON LAMBIE: I like, you know, the speed that
everything goes by at. I like getting to, you know,
just see everything and I just find it like
a pretty relaxing activity. It’s nice, it’s fun. NARRATOR:
This day he isn’t riding hard, just getting from
his house to the gym at his parent’s
place for a workout. It’s kind of a rest
and recovery day. Four days earlier,
he was in Bolivia, breaking a world record. (incoherent yelling) Lambie broke his own track
cycling world record, set a year earlier in
the Individual Pursuit. A race where riders
start on opposite sides of a 250 meter banked track and try to catch each
other for 4000 meters. (cheering) (slow guitar) He’s also part of the American
record in the team pursuit. LAMBIE: Being able to represent
the country is huge. NARRATOR: All
this just three years after his first
real track race. Oh and throw in the fact
that the nearest velodrome, an arena for track cycling
is more than 400 miles away. How does this happen? (calm music) First, while kind of
new to track racing, Lambie has a lot
of hours on a bike. Starting in high school. Gravel races,
ultra-distance races, his longest was
1,200 kilometers. That’s about 750
miles in four days. He broke the record for riding
across the state of Kansas. Covering 400 miles in
less than 24 hours. One day he came across a race
on a grass track in Kansas. He was hooked. LAMBIE: Yeah, it’s
pretty exhilarating. It’s just fun to have an
effort on such a contained course and you don’t
have to worry about anything else, like
any external factors. You’re just going
as fast as you can. In like a controlled
environment. Which is fun. NARRATOR: One
year later, he’s on the U.S. National team.
Two years later, he’s a world record holder. (inspiring music) LAMBIE: Yeah, like
once you switch training, and you just start training
for this one specific thing, it goes pretty quickly. And there were a lot
of new things that it was easy to see huge
performance gains. You know like, the
first year I did the gym like I got a lot stronger. I hadn’t really been
doing any strength or gym training up
until that point. Like that makes a
huge difference. And yeah, doing all the
track specific training. That kind of stuff. NARRATOR: The lack
of a velodrome for training is no big deal. There are occasional trips to the US Olympic training
center in Colorado. But mainly power meters
on his gravel bikes and indoor trainers to
let him replicate the power he needs to
generate on the track. Coffee, chocolate, and
something inside lets him handle the hardest workouts his
trainer can throw at him. LAMBIE: I don’t feel like
I’ve tapped out, or I’ve hit my
ceiling on training. So I think I can keep
progressing with that. You’re on a track
that’s fairly consistent and you’re just riding 16 laps. But there’s so many
subtleties and like really small details
that you can just refine and keep working on. NARRATOR: Lambie’s
first track race of any kind happened a decade earlier. LAMBIE: I actually
didn’t even remember that I raced you until
you brought it up that we were going to film
here, at the Tractor test track. And I was like, I’ve been
there before. Absolutely. NARRATOR: Yup,
ridden on the Oval, The University of Nebraska,
Lincoln, uses to test tractors. Quick trivia, this is
the only lab like this for tractor testing in
the Western Hemisphere. But back to cycling. 18 year old Lambie was
riding for an Omaha team in a UNL cycling club event staged counterclockwise,
backwards for some reason. LAMBIE: I crashed actually. Yeah, I tangled handlebars
with a guy first sprint. I was okay the other guy
did not finish the race. I got a new wheel then hopped
back in the race and finished. NARRATOR: We brought
him back a decade later, it’s different than
what he races on now, longer and without
banks on the turns but still a good place
to show me a few things about track riding. (upbeat music) MIKE TOBIAS: I don’t think
I’m going to win. (upbeat music) LAMBIE: Oh ah. TOBIAS: That easy for ya? LAMBIE:
I’m working a little bit. TOBIAS: So you can do that
for two and a half miles at 36 miles an hour? LAMBIE: Is that how long
four K is? Oh my god. That sounds way longer. You don’t take the best line, you can make the turns
easier on yourself right, like start on the outside if you try to hit the
inner line at the middle, so you peak right here and then we start
drifting back out, right. And then you just
ovalize the track right? TOBIAS: So let’s talk about
the team pursuit. I’m not going to
get as close as normal but how close would you be? LAMBIE: Eight to 12 inches. Do you feel how
much easier it is? TOBIAS: Yeah I can tell
a ton, if I do this- LAMBIE: Yeah. TOBIAS: I can tell a
difference in the effort. LAMBIE: And it’s like, at least
a 25 percent difference. The other hard thing is
that none of us have breaks, like if you get too close
to the guy in front of you, you can’t like, you
can’t hit the break. Which sounds terrifying, but
then if nobody has brakes, it’d be like we’re all
driving on the interstate and everybody just
had cruise control. TOBIAS: Right. LAMBIE: It just makes
everybody really smooth. TOBIAS: So did you ever think
you’d be at this point two or three years ago? LAMBIE: No, absolutely
not. 100 percent. TOBIAS: But how cool is it? LAMBIE: It’s super fun. I mean like, being
out here, you know, ten years later in a U.S.A. kit? Going the right
direction, it’s awesome. And knowing this is
the right direction. Yeah it’s super fun. TOBIAS: Thanks for doing this. LAMBIE: Dude, thank you that
was fun.
TOBIAS: It was great. NARRATOR: Track cycling
is an off-the-radar thing in the United States.
The best of the best in lots of sports make millions
and live lavish lifestyles. America’s fastest track
cyclist, tinkers with bikes in a rural Lancaster
County garage while stepping around
recently harvested garlic from his garden. LAMBIE: I like it.
I like where I’m at. It’s a good gig. After the
record in Bolivia, you know, it was like a bunch
of people were like, oh can I have your picture,
will you sign this? I was like, God can’t wait
to go back to Nebraska and like go to Costco
and like no one, maybe one person recognizes me. (air compressor running) NARRATOR: There’s
one big showcase for sports like this every four
years. The Olympics. But, you won’t see
Ashton Lambie in Tokyo. The number of
countries that qualify for the four man pursuit,
was cut to eight. Before the 2020 games, and
the U.S. didn’t make it. Plus the International
Olympic Committee dropped individual
pursuit from competition after the 2008 Olympics. It’s a tough break, a harsh
reality. But no complaints. Lambie’s happy doing
what he’s doing. Relishing still wearing that
U.S.A. jersey on the track, and with sponsors,
lots of other rides
and events coming up. LAMBIE: I love it. It’s blessed. It feels awesome like going
that fast on the bike, and just like everything you
keep working on is clicking. Yeah, that’s probably
the best feeling. NARRATOR: No brakes on this
bike, but that doesn’t matter. This dude doesn’t want
anything to slow him down. ANNOUNCER: Ashton Lambie
ladies and gentleman! He is your gold medalist
here at the Velo Sports Center. (upbeat music) (calming music) NARRATOR: More
than 60 years after he got his professional
start in Nebraska, legendary race car
builder and innovator, Bob McKee is back
where it all began. It’s a walk down memory lane at the Speedway Motors
Museum in Lincoln. BOB McKEE: Always had a bigger
car tire on the right front, a bigger hub and bearings. NARRATOR: McKee
has been interested in mechanical things for
as long as he can remember. Growing up he liked to tinker. His race car building
career started with an ad in the Sears
and Roebuck catalogue. McKEE: We had the Craftsman
welding kit, I bought that I was, probably
when I was 15 or 16 and started welding and
melting stuff, burning myself. Pretty soon you’re sticking
metal together and it worked. NARRATOR: He was soon
building Hot Rods in high school and later met
legendary race car driver, Tiny Lund. A giant of a
man who drove stock cars across the mid-west.
Including in Nebraska. McKee outfitted a
stock 1956 Pontiac with racing modifications for Lund. The pair hit the road
to race in small towns. Lund the driver and
McKee the mechanic. McKEE: I had my 21st birthday
out here and he took me to Omaha for a steak
dinner and he was going to show me a big time in Omaha. And the first place we walk
into they asked him for his ID and they didn’t ask me for
mine because I was just 21 but he was six years older
and it really ticked him off. (upbeat classical music) NARRATOR: Lund soon
left to race with NASCAR and went on to win the
Daytona 500 in 1963. Meanwhile Bob McKee enrolled at the University of
Nebraska, Lincoln, as a mechanical engineering
student. He lasted a semester. McKEE: Mechanical drawing
was really useful for the rest of my life and the English classes
and stuff not so much, but you know everybody has
things that they’re better at and worse at. I could take things apart
and put them together and I enjoyed that. NARRATOR: When it
became clear that his future was in race car building
and not the classroom, McKee never looked back. He’d work at Speedway
Motors original shop in downtown Lincoln
on the weekends helping legendary
owner Bill Smith. In 1958 he was a part
of the winning crew at the grueling 500 mile
Monza race, in Monza, Italy. It was a turning point. The original winning
roadster is displayed at the Speedway Motors Museum. McKEE: I’m there on the
right up there, I was in the army at the time. I was a little thinner
then and had more hair. But, you know that was
quite an exciting thing being in Italy and Monza and racing with some of the
best drivers in the world. (exciting music) NARRATOR: The slick
looking A.J. Watson Roadster stood out among the
more well established Italian super cars. McKEE: Dark cars, I always
thought were superior, craftsmanship and the
construction of them. The Ferrari’s Formula 1 cars
there were several of them there but they kind of look
like a sack of walnuts, they’re all lumpy and bumpy and- but this is all smooth and
slick and, well constructed. (upbeat classical music) NARRATOR: Soon, McKee
launched out on his own. Opened his own shop in Illinois and spent the next 50 years as one of racing’s
ultimate insiders. Even if racing fans
didn’t know him, everyone on Pit Row did. He built Indy cars,
Can-Am cars, stock cars, sports cars, and even
what is considered the first practical electric
car in the early 1970’s. McKEE: Exide, Willard
and Ray-o-vac came and said would you be
interested in building an electric car, I said, sure, we’re interested
in building anything. So it was a challenge
and interesting. So that was another
fork in the road, took us off over here
and we built a lot, probably 35 different
electric cars. You know, since
those first ones. NARRATOR: McKee also
helped build a turbine car. Basically a jet powered
race car that competed with more
established manufacturers. He rubbed shoulders
with celebrities like, Actor Paul Newman, who used
one of McKee’s cars in a movie. And Mercury astronauts, Gus
Grissom and Gordon Cooper, who owned a race
car McKee built. McKEE: That’s when they were
on the cover of Life magazine, and flying the fastest
jets and doing the wildest kind of crazy things
and in spacecrafts so, that was a fun time. (upbeat classical music) NARRATOR: He was known for
being able to build just about anything including
the innovative McKee trans-axle that would work
with high powered race cars. McKEE: For mechanical
people, trying to figure out how to make a car
run faster and better and be stronger and aerodynamic and all the things involved,
it’s so challenging it kind of absorbs your life. NARRATOR: After
more than 60 years as a race innovator
and engineering icon, he reflects on a career that
got started in Nebraska. McKEE: I consider myself
very, very fortunate to be able to be involved
with interesting cars and interesting people and do challenging
engineering projects and meet a lot of fun people and do interesting things. I couldn’t of had a better
career doing anything else. I was very happy doing that. (upbeat music) (classical music) STOUTAMIRE: This is one of the
biggest areas of concern where we have plaster,
original plaster that’s cracked because of temperature
variations, humidity… WILLIAM STOUTAMIRE:
My name’s Will Stoutamire I’m the director here
at the Frank Museum. This museum, is a historic home, that was once part
of the Nebraska State Hospital for Tuberculosis. It served as the hospital
in the earliest years of the institution and over time, served as the chief residence
of the superintendent, and doctors and other
staff at the hospital. (talking to crowd) STOUTAMIRE: So when I first
began at the Frank Museum, the home had been mostly
restored on the first floor to its earliest appearance, when it was a residence
in the 1890’s. (soft piano music) STOUTAMIRE: The upper levels
of the home have seen very little work
over many decades and in fact the third floor, which had served as a residence for much of the staff of
the tuberculosis hospital had been almost
completely untouched. What we decided to do was something a little bit different for a historic house museum, and to actually restore the
upper floors of the home to the way the house
appeared when it was part of this very important
state institution. To use what was left
behind as a guide for the restoration
work and then in those spaces to interpret
the history of that hospital. This hospital and it’s
story is very important not just to the
history of Kearney but to the history of the
entire state of Nebraska and the larger
great plains region. This was an institution that over the course
of it’s existence, over 60 years, treated
thousands upon thousands of Nebraskans, Kansans, people
from the larger region for this disease, for
this very scary disease of tuberculosis. READING OF HOSPITAL INTENT:
Treating and
containing tuberculosis is a great concern for
the state of Nebraska. The uncontrolled spread of
the disease among farmers, railroaders,
and factory workers threatens the state economy. For this reason, state funding
helps many pay for treatment covering anywhere from half to the entirety of
their healthcare costs. (soft music) Some of these lower
income patients are African-Americans.
Primarily
from Lincoln and Omaha. At a time where people of
color faced discrimination and housing, education and
access to facilities at home at the state hospital, they
receive integrated housing and care. This extends to
Hispanic and Native Americans patients as well. STOUTAMIRE: It’s important
to keep in mind, that with a place like this,
in this part of the country, in the rural mid-west,
integration is more the result of a lack
of racial diversity, not the absence of
racial prejudice. And so what we see early on
in the history of the hospital is in fact, bubbling
controversies in the community as it becomes public knowledge
that African-American patients and white
patients are receiving the same form of treatment and are actually sleeping
in the same rooms and it’s one of the
very first nurses who has to come out publicly and defend the practice
of treating patients equally regardless
of their race. And this is of course,
quite progressive for the early 1900’s. (soft music) WORDS OF A NURSE: Thousands
of children in Nebraska have their childhoods
interrupted by tuberculosis. The disease spreading
in classrooms and on playgrounds. For infected children,
from lower and working class families
with little financial means admission to Kearney’s
Tuberculosis Hospital was often the only solution. As many as one in four patients at the hospital are
under the age of 18. Some are younger than five. The hospital staff works
hard to balance treatment which includes hours
of bed rest with the needs of active
growing youth. School work is
accompanied by picnics along the Kearney Canal. Concerts on holidays. And the occasional
play or pageant. For brief moments each
day, these sick youths are allowed a
childhood as they wish for health and a cure
for their disease. STOUTAMIRE: Hey this is Will
over at the Frank Museum, is Lucas in the office? Well you know when you
give me something good like that, I might get excited. Whatever he’s got,
I’d love to see it and we’d probably be
willing to take it. It’s just you picked
a funny day because we’re having the
Tuberculosis Hospital exhibit installed
like, right now. (drilling) (soft music) KAREN PENINGTON: Oh I’m
thrilled you’re opening up the rest of the house,
it’s wonderful that people are going to be able
to know some of that history because a lot of people have no idea what that
disease was like. RUSSELL SMITH: My dad
would just, you know, probably shake his
head and wouldn’t want any of the attention
or anything like that. I think he would be
happy maybe, to uh- say you know, there was
some good people here that treated a lot of
people that really needed it and maybe, they
should be remembered. Or the good nurses and
doctors that were involved. MAN: TB is coming back. It’s becoming antibiotic
resistant now. And we can see a
surging TB again. So, who knows? STOUTAMIRE: What we hope
this exhibit will do is help to dispel
some of the myths associated with the State
Tuberculosis Hospital. And also provide a place
for people to connect with this important part
of our community’s past and of our state’s history. It’s important for
us to understand the kind of radical approach
that was take here as well that this was an institution designed to treat the poor. That this was an
institution that the state of Nebraska subsidized
in order to ensure that the poor in our state could receive treatment
for this disease. This was a radical approach
in the early 1900’s and it’s important to
think about what that might mean for us today. (soft music) (upbeat guitar) (crane song) NARRATOR: Sandhill
cranes paint the sky and cover the water
along the Platte river in Central Nebraska
every spring. GENE GUSTAFSON: Oh yeah we saw a
lot of cranes through the years. (laughs) soaring up
in the air, beautiful. NARRATOR: Gene
Gustafson has been a part of that scene his entire life. This 95 year old,
longtime farmer, has always lived by the river. And has even served as a
guide for crane watchers. GUSTAFSON: It’s just God’s
creation in the morning and the sunrise
just can’t be beat. You know, it’s- it
is so beautiful. Especially in my opinion
over the Platte River. NARRATOR: The cranes
have served as inspiration for many artists.
Gene is one of them. His canvas is a block of wood. From that he carves out
the cranes he remembers from those many
mornings on the river. GUSTAFSON: I guess I
know what a crane looks like. And the closest you
can get to what a crane looks like the
better off you are, you know with that. NARRATOR: Transforming
the wood into a crane though, has taken plenty of practice, Gene didn’t start carving
until the age of 74. When he took a class
to learn how to do it. Since then he’s spent
several hours most days whittling his time away. GUSTAFSON: What else have
I got to do today? You know? Don’t have much of an
agenda when you’re 95. (laughs) NARRATOR: That
agenda has been a full one though for the past 20 years. He started carving ducks. And along the way
has made his share of Swedish Dala horses
and even large replicas of Noah’s Arc for
his grandchildren. But his attention always
turns back to the cranes. GUSTAFSON: They’re pretty
special you know? They’re a crazy
looking bird but, you know, they have
their place too you know? They sure do. Evidently
I’m interested in them or I wouldn’t keep messing
around with them I guess, you know? (laughs) (band saw cutting wood) NARRATOR: There’s
a structure and an order to Gene’s messing around. He goes through 27
different steps before one crane is complete. Gene uses catalpa wood from trees his
grandfather planted. He is currently carving
from his fourth tree. He twists and turns
that wood on his saw until he creates
a familiar shape. GUSTAFSON: That would be
the beginning of a crane. NARRATOR: And
then he uses his knife to sharpen the finer points. And a homemade sander smoothes
the bird’s rough spots. Pieces of coat hanger
will serve as the legs and he even adds knee caps. Just don’t ask him
how he does that. GUSTAFSON:
It’s really kind of a secret, you know? NARRATOR: Then
he moves to another room in his basement where he
mounts the crane to a base built in the shape of Nebraska. (slams wood on table) GUSTAFSON: There’s our crane. NARRATOR: All
that’s left to do is add some finishing touches
with his paintbrush and the crane is complete. It’s a process he estimates
he’s done about 500 times. Some of Gene’s
cranes end up here, at the Crane Trust
Nature Center. It’s the same place
where he used to lead crane watching tours.
Gene is still showing visitors the beauty
of the cranes. GUSTAFSON: Here I’ve
got an outlet for them if I’m going to keep going. You know, I’ve got an outlet. NARRATOR: Just like
those cranes on the river, Gene plans to keep coming back, to this hobby he’s
grown to love. And after 95 years, he’s
learned a simple lesson he’s happy to share. GUSTAFSON: You never know for
sure what’s laying back there, that you would enjoy and that you might even be halfway
good at. You know? Just go for it, you know, don’t just sit
around, go for it. NARRATOR: Gene
Gustafson is proof you’re never too
old to carve out you’re own niche in life. (cranes squawking) (upbeat music) VOICEOVER: Watch
more Nebraska Stories on our website,
Facebook and YouTube. Nebraska Stories is funded by The Margaret and Martha
Thomas Foundation. (upbeat music) Captions by FINKE/NET (upbeat music) Copyright 2020
NET Foundation for Television