Sixteen hours into the 22-hour drive from the Grand Canyon to Memphis, Andrew and Tatum Latsko hit a wall.
Not a physical wall. Not exhaustion. Not a mechanical breakdown in their rented Class C 22-foot RV. They hit a wall of tornadoes as severe weather pounded the Midwest.
Andrew and Tatum, a married couple from Bay Ridge, were already racing against the clock to make it in time to Memphis for tipoff between the Nets and Grizzlies on March 6 before the inclement weather hit. While they made a worthy attempt, driving late into the night, pushing through the path of a potential tornado just wasn’t worth it, even for die-hard Nets fans. They stopped in at the aptly named Thunder Travel Plaza and filmed a lightning storm instead. It turns out Mother Nature plays a pretty good zone defense.
That was the only potential peril on Andrew and Tatum’s road trip, as the couple RV’d around the country to follow the Nets. By all accounts, it was the trip of a lifetime for a pair of dedicated fans and their dog. Where Brooklyn at? Try everywhere.
“Getting to see the team on the road and in different cities and go to see different parts of the country we’ve never been to, see other fan bases, see the flavor for different teams and what it’s like at their home games, coupled with the fact that we’d always had this idea that we wanted to do an RV road trip across the country and when the schedule came out at whatever point maybe over the summer, we started looking at it and saw geographically this works,” said Andrew.
Tatum said they were inspired by Dawn Risueno and Richard Johnson’s road trip last season, when the couple drove 9,000 miles to follow the Nets during the “circus trip.”
They made a few necessary adjustments given the back-to-backs on the schedule, but still wound up driving about 4,000 miles on the trip, catching five of the eight games.
They flew from Denver to San Francisco so they could make the back-to-back to start the trip instead of chancing the 18.5-hour drive through the night. After a few days in San Francisco, they picked up the 22 foot Class-C RV and drove to Sacramento to watch the Nets bust a 16-game losing streak at the fabulous Golden 1 Center. The couple’s consensus is that Golden 1 Center was their favorite arena on the trip.
“Sacramento was stunningly awesome,” Andrew said. “Open concourses, everything we ate was really good. We heard about Golden 1 Center being really great, it was the first season and it lived up to it.”
The brand-new arena was a sharp contrast from the aging, but charming Oracle Arena in Oakland, but even in the nosebleeds they could feel the special energy out in the Bay Area.
“We loved the crowd, loved the energy and we were up in the nosebleeds and still had an amazing time,” Tatum said. “The arena itself felt like a high school hallway you were walking around. It was so cramped, you couldn’t do anything, but the energy in that place was unreal.”
The real driving portion of the trip picked up after Sacramento, each day offering a new vista. They were surrounded by snowcapped mountains in Salt Lake City, detoured to the neon lights of the Las Vegas strip and stared out at the vastness of the Grand Canyon before setting out on the long road to Memphis through the south. They skipped backtracking to Portland because of another back-to-back and the road to Tennessee is long enough as it is. They also went south to avoid driving through the mountains. While it was a good idea on paper, the tornado twisted up their plans, but thankfully not the RV.
After that, they rolled along the lush green, low-key riversides in Alabama on their way to Atlanta and then back up to Brooklyn. They both have to return to work, so they skipped the Dallas game rather than driving another 11 hours back west. Still, they did well, covering about 4,000 miles in a little over a week.
As for the RV life, Tatum and Andrew said it was the way to go. When the wind picked up it took effort to keep it straight, but overall it was comfortable and allowed them to bring their dog. It’d better be comfortable because they spent a lot of time in it, driving during the day and sleeping in it at night.
“Most nights we reserved spots in RV parks. We have a power hookup and a city water hookup, you have a dump where you can dump your waste, but there were a couple nights where you play it by ear and slept at truck stops,” Andrew said. “On the way to Memphis when we got all screwed up, we stopped at some TA’s and were like alright, we’ll just stay here for the night.”
TA stands for Travel America, a network of interstate travel plazas.
“They become these Meccas when you’re on the road for a while or you see a truck stop and you’re like ‘yes, civilization,'” Tatum said.
They estimate they took over 1,000 photos during their trip, a mix of landscapes and game shots, commemorating their stop at each arena. They ran into more Nets fans as they headed east, though they saw pretty healthy Jeremy Lin support across the country. As an added treat, they met with radio broadcasters Chris Carrino and Tim Capstraw in Atlanta.
Barclays Center was a welcome sight when they get back to Brooklyn and section 207 felt like a return home for the season ticket holders. As memorable as the trip was, there’s something to be said for a 15-minute ride to the game. But at the end of the day, these Nets fans wanted the road trip of a lifetime – and they got it.