BYU’s parking lot camping team scores big on deals

The Varsity Parking Lot Camping Team. October 2011.
The Varsity Parking Lot Camping Team poses for a team photo in Meridian, Idaho.

MERIDIAN, IDAHO – At six in the morning on October 24, 17 BYU students entered a unique kind of contest. Dressed in hats, boots, gloves, and layers upon layers of coats, shirts, pants and wool socks, this group of friends staked their camp. Sleeping bags and blankets abounded in two huge tents, one for the men and women respectively.

For the next 24 hours, the parking lot of the brand new Chick-Fil-A in Meridian, Idaho would be their home. The reward for this parking lot camping trip? Free Chick-Fil-A for a whole year.

The leaders of this camp out, and many others, are “co-camptains” Ryan Hansen, a senior majoring in computer science from Sandy, and Cameron Asay, a senior pursuing a BFA in acting from Orem. They founded the Varsity Parking Lot Camping Team, or VPLCT, in October 2011 for BYU’s lost and found sale. Hansen, Asay and their friends already loved camping and great deals, so the next logical step was to get everyone in one place, on one team.

“We just love camping in parking lots,” Hansen said. “(Parking lots) are the perfect venue because you usually have power. You can focus more on fun things like Xbox and TV and less on the survival things.”

The VPLCT has camped out for three lost and found sales, four Chick-Fil-A grand openings and various Black Friday sales.

The Chick-Fil-A camp outs began in March 2011 when Hansen’s dad told him about the “First 100” promotion. Whenever a new Chick-Fil-A opens, the first 100 people in line 24 hours before the official opening get the opportunity to camp in the parking lot. If they are still there the next morning at six, they win 52 free meals for an entire year. Hansen said the first camp out was planned too well. They were not even sure if the promotion occurred at every new Chick-Fil-A.

“We just showed up with tents and blankets and we froze, but it was probably the best one we’ve ever done,” Hansen said. “That was before the VPLCT even existed.”

The VPLCT went out in full force on October 23 to earn their chicken, road tripping five hours in the middle of the week. It was a diverse group as well, with people studying subjects ranging from law to from theatre arts with a costume design emphasis; from neuroscience to accounting; from geology to family life.

Nathan Weatherford, a senior majoring in Spanish translation from Plano, Texas joined the VPLCT “at its inception.” While most other members of the team said they love the VPLCT because of the people, Weatherford said, somewhat jokingly, that he loves it because of the Duchess, which is the team’s newest tent that sleeps eight or more people.

“It’s got self-rolling windows, a hinged door and an opening for a power cord. Do you know any tents that awesome? I don’t think so,” Weatherford said.

But for most of the VPLCTers, it really is about the people. After all, if they are going to spend all day and night together in a parking lot, they better enjoy each other’s company. Becca Mattson, a senior from Cypress, Calif., majoring in wildlife and wildlands conservation joined the VPLCT in September and said she never would have gone to Idaho if she did not love the people. Hansen agreed.

“Although our jerseys are pretty awesome,” Hansen said, “what really makes the VPLCT is the people in the jerseys.”

But what of the VPLCT when both co-camptains graduate? Hansen said they try to not bring it up.

“The Lava Lounge (the name of Hansen and Asay’s house) is kind of like Neverland. We all pretend we’re never going to grow up. We pretend it’s going to last forever,” Hansen said. “But we do have a dream of one day, after we’ve all gone our separate ways, reuniting, and bringing all our families together to the biggest Chick-Fil-a opening ever.”

And so this group of friends will continue traveling from parking lot to parking lot, winning free food and scoring great deals, never regretting the days and nights spent as a team.

“There’s a certain time in a man’s life when a moment comes along that you cannot let pass no matter the cost,” Weatherford said. “(Joining the VPLCT) was one of those moments.”

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This story was written for a class project for a feature writing class at BYU in fall 2012.

Tiffany Lott Hogan: BYU’s Where Are They Now?

In 1995, Tiffany Lott Hogan was a standout in women’s track and field at BYU, getting national attention in the heptathlon, hurdles and javelin. She had a good shot at qualifying for the 1996 Olympics. But then she blew out her knee playing intramural basketball.

To come so close to achieving a goal she had been working toward for almost 10 years was devastating. But Hogan said that injury, along with pulling her hamstring during her senior year, helped her “accomplish some of the greatest things in my life.” 

She set a world record, won multiple NCAA championships and achieved a handful of All-America titles. She earned a gold medal at the Pan American Games and eventually made an Olympic appearance. If she’s proven anything during her career, it’s to never count her out.

“I had athletic trainers that helped me overcome my knee injury, all the rehab and that portion of it. After I tore my ACL I went on to be more motivated,” Hogan said. “I started training harder.”

That training paid off. Eleven months after blowing out her knee, and after taking a red-shirt season, she broke the 55-meter hurdles world record. In that same season she became the national champion in both the 55-meter indoor hurdles and the heptathlon. She credits her coach for the rapid recovery.

“Coach Poole helped me develop into the athlete that I was,” she said.

During her senior year, she pulled a hamstring but battled through it to once again win nationals in the heptathlon. That season she also met her husband.

As her BYU career ended, Hogan’s goal of making the Olympic team seemed inevitable. But things did not quite pan out. Hogan’s qualifying meet in the heptathlon for the 2000 Olympics was “mediocre, nothing spectacular.” She did, however, qualify as an alternate, which meant she got to try on all the Olympic apparel. This seemingly small event of just trying on clothes greatly impacted Hogan.

“Right then I was like, ‘I could have had all these clothes and gone to Australia,’ and the girl that ended up third, she didn’t even compete in the Olympics,” Hogan said. “So I’m sitting at home, watching the two US girls going ‘I could’ve been there!’”

Failing to make the Olympic team in 2000 turned into a great time for Hogan and her husband to settle down and start their family. Following the birth of their son, Hogan decided to take one more shot at the Olympics and then “hang up the cleats.”

In many ways it is an understatement to call training and mothering only tough. Hogan’s husband was finishing his degree at Southern Utah University while she worked and trained with the BYU track team as a strength and conditioning coach. Both her and her husband’s parents live in southern Utah so they helped a great deal looking after their son.

“For two years, we only saw each other on weekends,” Hogan said. “That was pretty tough … But it was a sacrifice that two things came of: I was able to make the Olympic team because of the training that was available to me and then my husband was able to get his degree done. So now I can be a stay-at-home mom and he now makes the money. Looking back it was worth it but going through it sometimes there were days I was like ‘Why are we doing this?’”

But it was not just being away from her family, or that when she started training after her pregnancy she was in the worst shape of her life, that made Hogan doubt what she was doing. About two months before the Olympics trials her brother passed away in a plane accident. That more than anything made her question why she was working so hard toward the Olympics. Looking at things from an eternal perspective, she had a lot of other things going on in her life, most importantly her own family.

“And then I started thinking again, ‘You know what? I’m 29. I’ve been training for this thing for 17 years. I can’t give up now,’” Hogan said. “My brother totally would have been cheering me on at the Olympic trials, probably at the Olympics. He was there in spirit watching me instead of watching me physically. I got myself motivated again to go after it.”

With all her hard work and re-motivation, Hogan earned a spot on the 2004 US Olympic team. While she didn’t medal, earning 20th place in the heptathlon, Hogan said she absolutely loved being in Athens with the team and that there was hardly a better place to compete.

Hogan, now 37, her husband, and their three children (ages 11, 7, 3) live in southern Utah. Though she considers herself a stay-at-home mom, Hogan also coaches track at Desert Hills High School in St. George. She also coaches other athletes. A number of her students, both from the Desert Hills team and from her private coaching, have gone on to compete at the collegiate level in various sports, including BYU quarterback James Lark.

Hogan’s Olympic days bring her much joy still and she is incredibly grateful to have had the opportunities she did. But none of them would have turned into such great accomplishments and achievements were it not for all the understanding and hardworking people in her life, coaches and family alike.

“It wasn’t that I was just blessed with this God-given talent. There were people that were my network, my support group, that helped me to develop into accomplishing all of these many awesome things,” Hogan said.


This article was written in October 2012 as part of a feature writing course at BYU. Each student in the class interviewed and wrote a story about a former BYU athlete, ultimately answering the question: Where are they now?