Since Oct. 2, Lisa Thompson and Tommy Kempfer have sat – and sat and sat and sat – in a truck that hasn’t moved.
They are the two remaining contestants from eight entrants in an outrageous Madison radio contest called Stuck in a Truck, a mind and body test of tedium.
They get 10-minute breaks every three hours. Otherwise, they sit in the truck around the clock. There is little room. They sleep sitting up or in a position that resembles advanced yoga. They can meet their spouses outside during the brief breaks. They get no reading materials, DVDs or computer access. Each day crawls past.
To the last person sitting in the truck, a new but Ford F-150, worth almost $30,000, awaits. Second place gets nothing. So they sit while every moment is webcast live by the contest’s organizer “Star Country” WMAD (96.3 FM) at www.963starcountry.com.
And Thompson, 40, and Kempfer, who turned 26 in the truck, reside in the showroom vehicle at Kayser Ford on the Beltline at Todd Drive. They have become friends and they talk cheerfully together despite the conditions.
Sleep is usually limited to between four and six hours per night, Kempfer says. Spotlights blare on them all night, so they must rest with a blanket over their eyes. A low-volume speaker plays Star Country at all times. (The most-played songs by Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift have gotten on their nerves.) They eat, try to sleep and stare at the Beltline from their clear vantage point.
“We’ve got the (Beltline) traffic patterns down,” says Kempfer, of Sun Prairie. “Morning and night we see the rush hours. Even at lunchtime, it gets a little backed up.”
Thompson describes specific back-up times and Kempfer adds, “Except on Fridays. The traffic starts about a half-hour earlier.”
Both are married and self employed: Thompson, of Westfield, owns a sewer service and Kempfer is a wireless business consultant. On Oct. 22, the third-place contestant left the truck. Star Country, like other radio stations nationwide that have held similar contests, has made it more difficult as the weeks add up. The contestants’ 6 a.m. break had been 30 minutes, now it’s 10.
One contest change – no more watches – failed to disrupt the contestants. “Time goes faster without it,” Thompson says.
On Election Day, both of them were allowed six hours to leave the truck to vote. Thompson says she felt nauseous and even panicky in a moving car, but the feelings subsided.
The truck’s seats are locked. There’s no lounging back. Thompson, who is 5-feet tall, is able to stretch her feet on the dashboard without pushing against the windshield. Kempfer is 6-foot-1 and can’t do that. Each day, they switch sitting in the seat with the steering wheel in front of them.
Watching the pair on one of four Web cams may, at times, be jarring. The days take their toll. “I can see how if we’re caught just gazing, we look like the most miserable people in the world,” Kempfer says. “In reality, we’re probably ready to fall asleep or something.”
Can this end happily after more than six weeks? Yes, they say.
“We’re at the point where we know each other and respect each other,” Kempfer says. “No matter who wins we’re still going to be happy for the other person.”
A radio station rep stays with the pair at all times. Sitting near the truck, Mark Van Allen of Star Country thinks they could last until December.
Sue Webster, a Kayser Ford receptionist, has watched the contest from her desk about 20 feet behind the truck. She’s enjoying the contest and has been surprised at the final two’s determination.
“It’s going to end,” Webster says, then adds with a laugh, “probably.”
(November 27, 2008)
Two contestants remaining in a radio contest agreed to give up living in the cab of a pickup
After about eight weeks, a Madison radio station stopped its endurance contest that kept two entrants sitting in a truck, with short breaks every three hours, in order to win a new $30,000 vehicle. The contest ended Tuesday after the station offered both contestants $10,000 toward the purchase of a car, trips for two to Las Vegas and $1,000 for a mattress.
Within 15 minutes, Sun Prairie’s Tommy Kempfer and Westfield’s Lisa Thompson accepted the deal. They had one hour to decide – otherwise the contest would have continued with the runner-up receiving nothing.
“We sensed these two were not going to back down,” said John Flint, co-morning host on WMAD-FM (96.3) “Star Country.” “There was no way we expected this to go 55 days. If it was not for the deal, it’s possible they could have gone on until New Year’s.”
On Wednesday, Kempfer, 26, and Thompson, 40, said they were sore but happy. “Both of us were ready to go home,” Kempfer said, “but we didn’t want to leave with nothing after you put in that much time.”
The pair, part of eight entrants who began the contest, remained the only participants left for almost four weeks. The station added obstacles, including no sleeping during the day, expecting one of the contestants to drop out. But Kempfer and Thompson kept going. They ate healthy foods, exercised during the 10-minute breaks and talked to customers and radio station listeners while sitting in the truck in the Kayser Ford showroom.
Kempfer and Thompson were shown on the radio station’s Web cam throughout the contest. Both said they were ready to continue. Kempfer, however, admitted his relief and said he feels “good to be back in real life.”
“When you’re used to sitting almost 24/7,” he said, “your body is adjusting to being upright again.”
Thompson reacted with tears when she left the truck for the last time. “It was happiness,” she said. “I was happy it worked out.”
Reflecting on the contest, Thompson said, “It was a very good experience.” Then she laughed and added, “Would I do it again? Definitely not.”
(March 23, 2009)
Follow-up: Any regrets for getting stuck in truck?
Of course, their backs were sore after nearly eight weeks sitting and sleeping in a truck for an outrageous radio station contest last fall.
And, yes, it took 10 days to two weeks before they felt normal again – and comfortable while sleeping lying down.
Sun Prairie’s Tommy Kempfer and Westfield’s Lisa Thompson were the two finalists in “Star Country 96.3’s” Stuck in a Truck competition with a new truck going to the last one remaining. Kempfer and Thompson displayed astounding stamina despite limited breaks and having to sit virtually around the clock in a truck.
Originally a winner-takes-all contest, “Star Country” officials realized Kempfer and Thompson were not going to quit as late November approached. So the station and contest sponsor, Kayser Ford, offered the pair a deal: Each gets $10,000 toward a new or used car, a $1,000 mattress and trips for two to Las Vegas. Kempfer and Thompson took the offer.
During recent interviews, both contestants said they could have lasted up to another two weeks.
The contest was discussed on “The Regis and Kelly Show” – but a major East Coast snowstorm curbed their appearance on “The Today Show.” Newspapers and radio stations nationwide mentioned the contest.
“I have no regrets,” Kempfer said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m glad I did it, but I wouldn’t do it again.”
Thompson agreed and laughed at how the contest still brings recognition. “Yesterday, I had a lady come up to me and ask, ‘Were you the one stuck in that truck?’ ”
Kempfer and Thompson remain good friends. In mid-January, they took their respective spouses on the Las Vegas trip together.