Mark Story

Mark Story: Dunlap's family never far away on game days

Kentucky forward Victoria Dunlap, right, coaxed her nephew King Dunlap VI out of the family RV after the LSU game.
Kentucky forward Victoria Dunlap, right, coaxed her nephew King Dunlap VI out of the family RV after the LSU game.

OK, parents. How far would you go to support the endeavors of your kids?

For Robin and King Dunlap IV — whose daughter, Victoria, will soon depart the University of Kentucky as the best women's basketball player not named Valerie Still ever to play at the school — that answer is literally thousands upon thousands of miles.

We can't be more specific because the odometer on the white 1999 Royal Classic RV that the Dunlaps have driven from their Nashville-area home to most of Victoria's games, home and away, over the last four years long since gave out.

"Oh gosh, we have to be over 250,000 miles," Robin Dunlap said last week.

Not always smooth miles, either. Like the time the Dunlaps drove some 200 miles toward a game over what they were convinced had to be the roughest road ever built — only to discover that the trip had been so bumpy because they were driving on a flat tire.

"On the RV, you have double wheels, and one of our inside wheels went flat, but we couldn't see it," Robin Dunlap explains. "You learn things about traveling in an RV, and one thing we learned there is, when (a trip) is that rough, you have a tire issue."

The key point from the story being that, RV wheels inflated or not, the Dunlaps find a way to their children's games.

"We've not missed one game; at least one member of our family has made every game since Victoria has been at Kentucky," Robin said. "And probably, oh, 75 percent of those games, we've made in the RV."

For Victoria Dunlap, every game — even a road contest like Thursday night's at Georgia — is, in a sense, a home game.

Started with older brother

The Dunlap traveling road show actually predates Victoria's arrival at Kentucky. The UK star's older brother, third-year Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle King Dunlap V, played his college football at Auburn.

His family purchased the used RV during King's time on The Plains. The Dunlaps became regulars among the Auburn tailgating crowd.

"It was fun," Victoria Dunlap says. "It was good family time. Traveling. Some pretty good food and SEC football."

When their daughter came north to play hoops at UK, Robin, 51, says, the family saw no reason not to continue its RV-ing tradition.

Thing is, at an SEC football game, there are fleets of recreational vehicles congregating around stadiums for whole weekends. Huge parking lots are reserved for the gatherings.

For a women's hoops matchup, there's not such a bustling scene. Which creates a whole different set of challenges, starting with where to park.

The good news, Robin says, is that Hugh and Caroline Morrow, the parents of Kentucky senior guard Carly Morrow, also travel to some of the UK Hoops games in their own RV.

"So we can sort of work together," Robin said. "It can be pretty challenging knowing where you'll be allowed to park."

At UK home games, Robin says, the family generally parks at either Commonwealth Stadium or at The Red Mile.

For the Dunlaps, traveling to games in a vehicle large enough to sleep six has benefits unique to the family.

Back in the day, Victoria's dad was a standout defensive tackle at Tennessee State and a fifth-round draft pick in 1969 by the Baltimore Colts. He is not a small man.

The UK forward's older brother, King, stands 6-foot-9 and weighs 330 pounds. Her other brother, George, is a 6-foot-3 basketball forward at Free Will Bible College.

Says Robin: "My husband weighs 315. George weighs 230. I'm not going to tell you what I weigh. But it's good for us to have someplace where we can move around."

Robin figures that the family traveling to games in an RV allowed her mom, Rosa Shaw, to see far more of her grandchildren's athletics contests than would have otherwise been possible. Rosa died two years ago.

Victoria says the recreational vehicle is making it possible for her dad to see her play despite some health problems. King Dunlap IV undergoes kidney dialysis three times a week, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

"I think (the RV) is the reason he can come to my games," Victoria said. "It has a bed, has a bath; he doesn't have to do a lot of squatting down. It's a comfort to him."

The Dunlap RV might be Victoria's secret weapon. Having your mom at your college basketball games with a kitchen at her disposal means access to some good home cooking.

"My mom's spaghetti is really good," Victoria says. "And her tuna fish sandwiches, I request them a lot."

A year ago, the Dunlap RV tracked the Cats through Louisville and Kansas City on their run to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight.

This March, UK fans will hope that there are many miles for a busted RV odometer not to record before the Kentucky part of the Dunlaps' journey ends.