Posted September 24, 2020 – Narrated by Jim
“Anywhere you find peace of mind is your home”– Author unknown
Road hazards, deer crossings, distracted drivers, steep grades, narrow mountain roads, blinding fog, lightening storms, ice storms, wind storms, sand storms, high winds, wild fires and tornados… Since we set out over four years ago, Living in Beauty (LIB) has passed through all of these driving anomalies. We signed up for it.
Peace of Mind is real currency while towing a five-ton rig on a strange highway through unfamiliar territory.
On our first official camping trip in Beauty we drove through a suburban San Diego county neighborhood where rooftops were on fire. That was five years ago and it wasn’t the first or last major fire we’ve encountered on the road.
We took that early LIB experience as a providential warning, an atavistic murmur of the trials ahead in this full-timing adventure.
So often peace of mind comes with a cost – but the good news is that most of our security techniques are entirely free.
Four Eyes Policy
Since that first weekend camping trip in Beauty, we’ve never departed from the four-eyes policy. Well … six-eyes, including Pico de Gallo, our full-time Security Specialist.
We concentrate on the road at all times. No self-imposed distractions are allowed in the cab. No loud music or radio talk shows, no snacking, dancing, smoking, flashing, groping, texting, sexting, googling or napping. All eyes and ears are on-deck. We plan all stops ahead of time and set our GPS before we pull out.
Drive under 60 MPH
Driving under 60 mph, is another form of life-insurance which we hold dear. RV accident reports tender valuable information about safety. The laws don’t lie. Maintaining a speed between 55-60 on the highway while pulling a trailer prevents accidents and accident fatalities. We’re retired, so we’re never in a hurry. But it’s better to pull off than to incite drivers on an 80 MPH highway to flip you off, or worse. So, we’re always scoping the shoulder for a safe spot to pull over and give faster commuters a break.
Driving five tons down the road for more than 41,000 miles through 46 states and four Canadian provinces can take a toll, so we operate on the 4-3-2 Rule. Drive only 4 hours, stop by 3 PM and stay for 2 weeks. 4-3-2 is not always achievable, but it is our ideal itinerary.
Anxiety-free travel is a myth, but it is still a worthy goal
And, it will remain a myth at least until 2030-50 when self-driving vehicles will be the norm if I live long enough to see them on the sales lot right beside the flying cars.
But, then, Carmen would find something to stress over. In her mind, we’ve already died a thousand deaths on the road. She works through challenging situations by visualizing newspaper headlines aloud, “Retired Couple Plunge To Their Deaths On The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge Due To Tire Blowout” and, “Senior Couple Flip Rig In Freak Sand Storm: Vicious Chihuahua Bites Rescuers.”
So, as we begin our 5th year of traveling full-time, we continue to research the latest in proactive safety measures and, take it from a couple of rubber tramps, road safety begins with tires.
Several years ago we published “Roadside Debacle Busters” to share our roadside emergency preparedness kit and we invite LIB followers to continue submitting equipment and ideas on that post.
Within three weeks of hitting the road – back in July 2016 – we had a tire blowout in the middle of the Mojave Desert on a busy highway in 100° heat.
After that blowout, we upgraded to 16″ wheels that will handle Light Truck (LT) load range “E” all season tires. We currently have Michelin’s Agilis CrossClimate tires on both the truck and Airstream. We have the LT225/75R16 on the Airstream and the LT275/70R18 on the truck.
These tires are far superior to Special Trailer (ST) tires for their longevity and greater ability to handle the increasing challenge of poor road conditions.
Another proactive maintenance was to replace our 20 year old axels.
Having new axels and shocks make us feel safer and the smoother ride decreases the jiggle inside the Airstream. We have fewer “surprises” now when we enter the trailer. Less stuff comes loose when we cross railroad tracks or hit a rough stretch of highway.
When the axels were replaced, we had a “Lift Kit” installed which raised the Airstream four inches to give us more clearance to avoid road debris and facilitate more off-road camping destinations.
Tire Pressure Monitors
For more than four years we have traveled without tire monitors. But last May, while visiting the Airstream Factory, we were intrigued that so many of our peers were installing tire monitors on their rig.
So, we talked to Mike Benson, National Sales Manager of TST (Truck Systems Technology) about the value their product brings to road safety. He stated, “Tire pressure and temperature awareness leads to increased roadway safety by helping to reduce tire related accidents.”
Because of their product’s reliability, Mike Benson explained that TST is a leader in the tire pressure monitoring system industry. TST is the only tire pressure monitoring system approved for use as standard equipment on all lines with Forest River and Thor, and the Airstream Classic.
He offered to supply us with the TST 507 6-Sensor Tire Monitoring System (valued at around $400) plus 4 extra sensors (valued at around $200) at no cost in exchange for an honest review.
We are very satisfied with the TST tire monitoring system and this is our review.
When the kit arrived, it included simple installation instructions. In just a few minutes, I successfully installed the 10 tire sensors on our Ram truck and Airstream, including the spare tires.
It was quick and easy to match each sensor to the appropriate location on the color monitor.
We use the suction cup holder to place the slim, attractive, four-color monitor on an easy to see location. They also offer an additional mounting system.
The recommended signal repeater was installed on the front A-frame of the Airstream to boost the signal from the tire sensors to the color monitor. It took about thirty minutes to drill the two screw holes and splice into the hitch power jack‘s 12 volt wiring.
Our Start up process:
Now that the system is in place, we check the monitor as a pre-flight inspection, and also between stops. Good tire pressure stats are a comfort to behold. Glancing at those beauties can be an addictive pleasure.
Also, the afternoon before we leave a location, we check the monitor to determine if any tires are low. If so, we hand carry the TST monitor to the tire, remove the sensor, fill the tire with our Viair 400P-RV Air Compressor, and replace the sensor. Then we check the monitor again. If correct, we’re done. If not, we repeat until the desired tire pressure is reached for each tire.
Our Ram truck comes with built in tire monitors and we have a hand held tire pressure gauge. But now we prefer this one source system for all 10 tires. That’s the beauty of the TST system. This goes along with Seagal’s law of a “Man with two watches.”
A tire blowout can be costly. In 2016, we paid more than $1,500 to repair the damage to the inside wheel well and aluminum siding. Since then, we’ve learned that our damage was comparatively minor for a blowout.
We’ve tested the TST system by quickly unscrewing a sensor – to simulate a rapid loss of air. Immediately, the monitor inside the cab sounds an alarm. That alarm could, potentially, avert costly damage or a major accident.
Specifics of the TST Monitoring system:
- A wide screen full-color display is included.
- The display can monitor up to 4 different trailers, a towing vehicle, and spare tires giving up to 115 possible tire positions.
- Every system comes with a Repeater/Signal Booster.
- TST has 4 sensor options, the RV Cap Sensor, Flow Through Cap Sensor, Hybrid Sealer Cap Sensor, and the Banded Internal Sensor.
- All the TST sensors are compatible giving you the ability to use multiple sensor types.
- The most common Airstream after-market sensor used is the RV Cap Sensor, or the Internal Sensor.
- All TST kits come with a 3-year Warranty
- Live Tech Support (770-889-9102) is available Monday-Friday 9:00am EST – 8:00pm EST and Saturday 9:00am EST – 2:00pm EST.
- At start-up, it takes 2-5 minutes for the monitor to connect to all the tires sensors.
- The monitor alternates displaying each tire, staying on one tire for about 5 seconds. You can jump to any tire as needed.
- Under normal operation conditions, the sensors send a new signal every 7 seconds to the monitor, but a rapid pressure decline will sound the alarm immediately.
- When we rotate our tires every 6,000 miles, we need to make sure the correct sensor is attached to the correct tire so the monitor displays correctly.
- It is very simple to turn off the display for the Airstream tires when we are not hitched.
- The #2032 batteries for the tire sensors should be replaced once a year. It’s a quick, clean job.
- We have rubber valve tire stems. These cap sensors are safe for rubber valve stems.
- The tire sensors are numbered so you can identify each sensor as it is displayed in the appropriate location on the color monitor.
- If your GPS is using the only 12 volt outlet in the cab, you will need a coupler to plug in the GPS and the tire monitor.
- The kit included a wrench to ‘lock’ the sensors to prevent theft, but we don’t use this feature.
One suggested improvement
TST asked us for our opinion about any future improvements to their product.
Okay. This is an elegant tire monitoring system, well designed, easy to install, and is an exciting addition to The Beast’s dashboard. The engineering is finely tuned to alert us to the slightest abnormality and we trust the technology. We feel safer, more informed and, thus, happier every time we pull out.
We can think of only one feature to improve the TST Tire Monitoring System.
It would be helpful to know if any locals set up camp on our tires over night.
Hey, it happens …
So, how about a chipmunk alert?
… Just a suggestion.
This comforting new upgrade – the TST Tire Monitoring System – is the piece of equipment we need to reach our 5th year destinations with more peace of mind.
If you want to see our exact route, click here.
*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.
38 thoughts on “Peace of Mind”
Love this post. We’ve definitely been in some tight spots too. Ask Major Airhead about the time we have “avoid Highways” set in the navigator. Woah! Hope to meet you on the road one day! If you ever find yourself in the in the South on the East Coast, we invite you to stay at our lot in Hilton Head, SC! Streaming Airheads
Libby, we love Hilton Head!!!!!! We stayed at Hilton Head Harbor RV Resort in 2017, loved it so much we almost bought a lot there. Watch out what you offer, we may just show up at your place in Hilton Head some day! We LOVE Hilton Head!!! 😀
Wonderful post. Thanks
Dan, so great to hear from you again! I recall you got your Airstream in the later part of 2017. Hope you are enjoying your Airstream as much as we love ours! Stay safe out there! Jim
Glad you enjoyed the post!
Our 20 years On The Road were the best adventure – met then drank and dined with wonderful new friends, experienced beauty in every State, I could fill a book ( hum? maybe I will!). We matured as we traveled, then made the wise but very sad choice to retire from RV travel – we Gypsies must recognize when this traveling is no longer safe to ourselves and others. So, may we tag along with you from our stationary (but also wonderful ) house in the country? Life is full of chapters! Enjoy The Journey! And always leave something more to see or do, in every town, to come back to! And if I ever hear you say “ Been there, done that!” I may have to quit tagging along. Linda and George and Jazz ( she only got one year of RVing before we had to stop, but it was a very good, memorable year!)
Linda and George (and Jazz), 20 years on the road! Wow! We can only dream of enjoying this adventure that long. Although I will only be 81 years old when we hit the 20 year mark, so maybe we will make it that long. We agree one of the best aspects of this lifestyle is meeting new friends in different places. Thanks for the advice about leaving something to see or do in every place we visit. Something to come back to! And we will never say “Been there, done that!” Thanks for following Living In Beauty! Stay safe out there! Jim
Thank you for sharing!!!
Richard, glad you enjoyed it!
Carmen and Jim, you add knowledge, serenity and optimism to the camping (and living) experience. Thank you for who you are and all you do.
Mike and Sara, thank you for your kinds words!
Hey Jim and Carmen..
I faithfully read where you are every post that is put out. I’m glad you are staying safe and being well.
If the tire monitor system is broadcasting on bluetooth …. then a great feature enhancement would be an app on an iPhone that would replace the color monitor. It could reduce clutter in the cab …just a thought.
Doug, we received out to TST and asked them if their sensors used Bluetooth technology to communicate with the color monitor. They responded that Bluetooth does not transmit far enough nor with enough power to reach the inside of the truck cab from the distance a travel trailer’s tires are located from the truck. They use a (RF) radio frequency to transmit the signal, which is powerful enough to reach the color monitor with the assistance of the signal repeater installed on the front of the Airstream. They do not have an iPhone app available that receives RF signals.
I thought I was the only one who passed time by mentally writing tragic headlines! We totally agree about TST. Ours gave us a warning driving across NM and fortunately, we were able to limp to a tire repair shop w/o a major problem.
Rebecca, sounds like you and Carmen would get along splendidly! Great to hear that the TST system helped you become aware of a potential disaster and you were able to advert a major problem and get help. Just another good story about tire monitoring. Thanks! Jim
Another great and important post! On our trip to Jackson Center last month we had a lift kit installed. We love it. We just picked up our trailer from Ultimate Airstreams (had a Seagull water filter — thanks for your recommendation — and a Fisher & Paykel dishwasher installed!). As part of their process they weigh your rig. We now know because of the customization work we’ve had done to the trailer (cabinetry) we are overweight. So when we get to Arizona we’ll be replacing our axles with ones that have a higher capacity rating. So keeping track of your trailer’s weight is important too.
I’ve considered down the road going up to 16″ tires, but wouldn’t that mean I could no longer use my Anderson levelers (a leveler barely fits in between the 15″ tires now)? We love those things for getting perfectly level. When you go to 16″ tires do you need to replace the rims as well?
Steve, great to hear from you! Glad you had the lift kit installed at the Airstream Factory. It makes a difference! Our Seagull IV water filter has been with us for over 20 years. We transferred it from our bricks and mortar home to our Airstream and feel our water tastes the same no matter where we travel. We agree trailer weight is often ignored. We work hard to keep our weight around 8,000 lbs. Switching to 16″ tires will allow you to also switch to LT tires. Sooooo much better than ST tires. You will need to get new 16″ rims/wheels. We got ours from Tred It, https://www.tredittire.com/wheels/. All you have to do is tell them you need 16″ wheels with these measurements, 16×6 6-5.5 with 0 offset, to fit your Airstream. I looked at the Amazon advertisement for Andersen Levelers and this is what they say “THE CAMPER LEVELER WORKS PERFECTLY ON ANY TRAILER UP TO 30,000 LBS & WITH TIRES UP TO 32″ DIAMETER.” So it appears, according to Andersen, they will work with 16″ tires. Stay safe out there! Say HI to Sue!
The problem with the levelers is we have dual axles so one of the levelers has to go in between the two wheels. There is just barely room for that now. If the wheels are 16” there will be less room. Probably about 1/2 inch. I know one option is to cut off some of the leveler from the “skinny” end to shorten it but that reduces your ability to add just a little bit of height.
Steve, sounds like it might be a tight fit, but I can tell you that 16″ tires in the LT load range “E” will be much more reliable than 15″ ST tires. It might be worth your effort to go with 16″ and make the levelers work somehow. Let us know if you ever switch and how it worked out. Jim
Will do. The 16″ tires will also turn at a lower RPM for a given speed. Less heat on the tire and less wear on the bearings. I’ll wait until current tires are ready to replace. They are Goodyear Endurance, so decent tires. I do like Michelins though.
I had no idea your pup is called Pico de Gallo! How awesome! I named my cat chop choy (chop suey in the US), but I LOVE Mexican food as well 🙂
Good idea to drive less than 60 miles on the highway. It’s not only safer but much more fuel efficient as well. Our average maximum speed in our camper van is 55mph. And at that point, we are happy to follow secondary roads. Most of the time. After we crossed the country that way last year, however, I think we will follow highways this time, as winter is coming!
BTW: we just ordered a set of new tires and will get them installed next week. Better safe than sorry!
Liesbet, Chop Choy for a cat’s name. Love it!! You are right, there are more than one good reason to drive in the 50’s MPH. We sometimes choose secondary roads and sometimes highways, depending if we have a timeline of some kind that is forcing us to be somewhere at a certain time. (It happens) If we don’t have a deadline, secondary roads is the ideal choice. We did the same thing and just ordered new tires for both the Airstream and Truck. Better safe than sorry, agreed.
David, glad you thought the content was helpful!
Great information. We are shopping now for a TPMS. A blow out is my biggest anxiety.
Kirsten, glad you found the information in this blog post helpful. If you have good 16″ LT tires, like the Michelin Agilis Crossclimate instead of ST tires, tire blowouts are not as common. With a TPMS installed, you will know when the tire pressure is getting low, all the time, and will be able to proactively stay on top of tire pressure maintenance. Very few tire blowouts cause major accidents, but they can cause some costly damage to the wheel well if the tire shreds. Stay safe out there!
Great post. Think I missed a trip home…maybe next time. Of course I checked out your data so far — totally saw Jim and his spreadsheets behind that. Amazing to me that you have been on the road 5 years already. Stay safe!
Jan, we were in San Diego for a few days to see an orthopedic surgeon for my torn Achilles. Next time we’re in town for more than a few days let’s get together.
So fun to live vicariously though your and Carmen’s adventures. Looks like you are doing really well! Hello from Carlsbad, California!
Karma, so great to hear from you. We are having so much fun traveling full-time. It is hard to believe we are in our 5th year on the road. Glad you are enjoying our crazy blog. Not sure what is more fun, to live this lifestyle or write about it. Both are a hoot!! 😀
So helpful Jim! We left Friday for a year (or more?) on the road and are abiding by your 4-3 rule….can’t always make the 2 work but we try to stay as long as possible!
Holly, glad you found the blog post helpful. WOW!!! You are starting a possible open-ended adventure!! Congratulations! That idea sounds vaguely familiar. 😎 Maybe our paths will cross soon! We agree, the 4-3-2 Rule is a great goal, but hard sometimes to stay 2 weeks if there is some place we have to be at a certain time. Stay safe out there! Jim