Folks talk loosely about RVs as houses on wheels, and that sounds reasonable enough. There's nothing new about hitching wagons to livestock; caravans have a long history. But modern travel trailers (dealers like to call them coaches) are less like moving houses and more like flying freighters. There is the towing. The truck needs horsepower, an integrated braking system, a hitch receiver the size of a washing machine, a rear camera, special side mirrors. There are torque wrenches, cotter pins, ball mounts and, in my case, a large wooden mallet I bought just so I could hit something that didn't work.
The second time my family crossed the U.S. it was in an old-model Mercedes, a car held together by rust and kitchen string, altogether at odds with the grandness of the name. We flew from Belgium; it followed us by ship, swung over the sides onto the dock in a cargo net. At least, that's the picture I hold: I could be conflating it with a Spanish ferry on the Costa Brava. The family was together then, the five of us, and we stopped into a coffee shop, just off the plane at JFK. I ordered a hot chocolate. "Honey," said the waitress (they still had waitresses and stewardesses in those years, until they were all exchanged at equal value for servers and flight attendants)..."Honey," she said in a mellifluous New York accent, "we don't have hot chocolate in August."