July 27, 1996 was the day I was liberated. I closed on the sale of my HVAC business and I no longer had to roll out of bed at 5 AM to go to work. I was 52 years old and retired 7 years before my goal of being able to retire at 59.
Christmas of 1994 my daughter gave me a subscription to a magazine called “full timers”. It was written by a couple who retired and was living full time in an RV traveling around the country. It described all aspects of living on the road. When I read the first magazine and told my wife about it we both agreed that would be fun to do “someday”. That “someday” arrived in 1996. We had done some preliminary research on RVs and nothing on tow vehicles. In 1994 we purchased a new Dodge 3/4 ton truck with the CUMMINS diesel that would pull anything it was hooked to! I even had a custom paint job done on it. In 1995 we bought a 32 ft. Cardinal 5th wheel. We used this rig until just before retiring and found out that a 32 ft. home was way to small to live in full time. We went to Elkhart Indiana to tour some factories to find the best 5th wheel on the market. We ended up ordering a 36 ft. Travel Supreme. In talking to the salesman at the factory I told the truck I had. His response was “they don’t make a trailer that truck will not pull”. When we picked up the TS the exit from the lot of the dealer had a slight incline onto the highway. I stopped, looked both ways, and accelerated. Nothing happened. Immediately I looked to see if the emergency brake was on; no it was not. I pushed the accelerator pedal down more and we finally creeped onto the highway. That was my beginning lesson on weight. When we went any place with the Cardinal RV I hardly knew I was towing it. OK, I just need to get used to it. In the early summer of 1996 we took the rig to Tulsa OK to a horse show for our granddaughter. It was like the tail wagging the truck. While in Tulsa I traded in my beautiful new 3/4 ton Dodge truck with the Cummins diesel for a new 1996 1 ton dully Dodge with a V-10! This was the second of many mistakes I made in the next 20 years. The first mistake was buying a 3/4 ton truck, but heh, I was new to this stuff. We kept the 1966 dully until 1998 when we traded it for a 1996 International with a 466 engine and a Wiers toter bed. (gas stations were too far apart for the V-10) Now we really had a TRUCK! We left Wisconsin in the fall of 1998 to do a volunteering gig at the Red Rock State Park in Sedona AZ. This was back then I was driving 500+ miles a day, and I was retired! No place to go and all day to get there! We headed south to visit some friends an then on west to Sedona. This was our first trip west on I-10, most of you know that road if you have traveled west at all. Louisiana was an experience to behold! Not only did I have to drive 50 mph (should have driven 20 mph) but we needed to put our clothes back on the hangers and the television back in its home every night we stopped. Needless to say, every night we stopped I was walking the park to find other Medium Duty Trucks (MDT) to see if they were having the same problems. I found a few and, yes, they too had the same problem. Another mistake! I went from a 1 ton dully to a MDT so I would have better control, better braking, in general, a safer way to travel. Little did I know I improved one thing only to develop another problem. Now, what do I do? Having been in the HVAC business I have a good mechanical back ground, so I’m thinking I need to put a different suspension on the trailer, right. So I did, I installed the MORryde IS suspension on it. It helped but not enough. So now I thinking maybe the hitch is the problem, but what do I to it. We drove all the way to Sedona and started out our gig at the Red Rock State Park. We were members of an RV club and they were having a rally in Tucson AZ so we decided to go. I was hopeful I could talk to other MTD owners about our problem we were having. At the show was a vendor selling “air ride hitches”. WOW, this is just what I need, so I bought one! I took it back to the park and over the next 3 months while working there , I installed it on my International truck. Problems solved?
In April 1999 after our volunteering gig was up we headed back to WI to visit family before heading on east to New York to see our daughter. I was anxious for the first day to come to an end to see how the trailer endured the ride. I opened the door, looked at the TV, it was still where it was supposed to be! The clothes had not fallen off the hangers! Problems solved!
Our truck had the typical truck seats that rode on air springs and also rocked fore and aft. On our second day we again were on a highway that was nothing close to I-10 but it was not as smooth as glass. I soon noticed we both were rocking back and forth in our seats. Thinking back to the day before we had some of it then, but the excitement of having a new hitch and solving our problems over road the rocking. The whole trip back to WI was fine, the trailer rode great, but the rocking continued, no matter what road we were on. It took us about a week to get home. After about the 3rd day of rocking I’m now thinking of a way to solve that problem. When we stop for the night I’m looking over the hitch to see if something is loose, of course nothing is. Then on the day before we get home, I’m driving and zoned out thinking about how this hitch is working and it dawns on me. My step son is a metal fabricator and owns his own business. After we are home and settle in I take our truck to his shop and tell him my experience with the original hitch and why I bought this new air ride hitch, but that I was getting this rocking motion in the truck while driving. I told him my thoughts as to what was causing it. We talked about it and in the ground he drew out how the hitch was working and we both concurred on the problem. We also agreed there was nothing that could be done to correct the problem. I was really bummed. I spent a lot of money to fix a problem only to create another one. My wife and I decided not to go to New York because I wanted to spend some time trying to figure out a solution to our new problem. Over that summer of 1999 I did a lot of drawings on new hitch designs. With the help of my step son we made a completely new hitch. Interstate I-90 is almost as bad as I-10 so I had a perfect testing ground for our new air ride hitch. We took a trip north to Wisconsin Dells for a trial run.
Problem solved! The rocking was gone! Nothing inside of the trailer moved, I mean nothing! I was euphoric. In thinking about what just happened, I knew I was not the only person who was having problems as the rocking problem was because of the design of the way the hitch worked. We decided to go the the fall rally of Escapees in Van Wert Ohio to let other RVers see how we fixed the problem. We set up a vendor’s booth to show the hitch. The interest was off the charts. I was not there to sell hitches for my self, I kind of hopeful I could get a couple of orders so my son to build them. Once I saw the interest, I knew it was much bigger than that. We went back to Wisconsin to talk to our son about building them for sale to RVers. He agreed he would be willing to give it a shot.
In the spring of 2000 Escapees had their spring rally in Chico California so we decided to go to the rally and display our hitch as a bonafide vendor. There are lots of stories to be told about that rally but in a nut shell we actually had RVers lined up with money in hand ready to purchase a hitch. Now, keep in mind, I had nothing to sell, the only hitch I had was on our truck and we were using it. While at home I made a wood display showing the working action of my old hitch and of my new hitch. I sold 16 hitches at that show with only this little wooden display. When I called my son and told him that I sold 16 hitches, his reaction was “holly s— how am I going to make that many?”
That was the start of Trailer Saver hitch company.
Not long after that I sold the rights to a friend of mine, Steve, and I was out of the air ride hitch business. I met Steve at an RV rally and he was traveling in a Holiday Rambler motorhome, but was going to get an International truck and 5th wheel trailer. He bought a hitch even before he had his 5th wheel rig; we became very good friends and still are today. Being some what bored I was thinking of a new stationary hitch design and I shared it with Steve. He asked me how I was going to market it and I responded that I didn’t really know. He thought it could be another model under the Trailer Saver name. I told him I thought that might get messy. In the end we ended up forming a new company and became partners. All this time my son was building the hitches and everything was going fine, but Steve and I wanted to do some changes to the manufacturing process. That was something my son didn’t really want to do. In the end Steve and I moved the business to my old business shop, bought the necessary equipment and started making all models of the Trailer Saver line of hitches.
In a couple of years I sold out to Steve and went back to being retired. Steve then sold out to Hensley Mfg. and the name is still in business.
In 2007 or 2008 I was on line looking for something and stumbled onto the Air Lift website. I found a new product called closed cell urethane air cells. I read the description and the marbles started rolling around again. I called Air Lift and talked to the marketing manager and told him my intentions. He did not have any idea if it would work but he was willing to send me some cells to play around with. I used to buy thousands of air springs from him so that may have helped. Anyway, he sent me a half a dozen cells and I went to work. What took place over the next several years is a compilation of what we have today. Over the years I have made several different designs of air cell hitches. As with everything, there seems to always to be a better way of doing something. At this point I am satisfied we have made the best possible air cell hitch for the money. As always, if you want to throw gobs of money at something, you can usually improve it, but to what degree?
After I completed my first air cell hitch I again took it to I-90 to test it out. I’m going to regress a bit here. When I sold Trailer Saver we had just started making a model of air spring hitch for the pickup industry. Prior to that the only market we targeted was the MDT customers because of the ride quality in the trailer. At a show in Cheyenne WY I had a lot of RVers ask if we made a hitch for the pickups…we did not, but maybe we should. So we developed one mostly like the model for MDTs only smaller and lighter. The ride quality in the trailer was just fine, but on certain roads, mostly cement highways the ride in the truck was horrible. There seemed there was nothing we could do to solve the problem.
So my goal was to make a hitch that was lighter in weight, cost less to purchase, was UPS shippable, and still gave the trailer a good ride. I knew the truck was going to ride rough because the pickup truck is half the weight of an MDT. The trailer can’t push the MDT around like it can the pickup, so I was aware of the ride in the pickup would not change. So I hooked up to my 40 ft. toy hauler and headed for I-90. Remember, this is the same highway I tested the 1st Trailer Saver hitch on. On this trip I had a friend of mine, Pete, ride in the trailer. I drove again to Wisconsin Dells and back. Pete has been with me selling all of our hitches so I wanted him to see how the trailer rode.
About 2 months prior to our test ride I used my old Trailer Saver hitch on a trip to Oshkosh to the Fly In show. We had not been on I-90 for more than 10 minutes and my wife told me to slow down because her boobs were hurting from bouncing. (true story). When Pete and I returned he said he thought the ride in the trailer was about the same as with the Trailer Saver air hitch. What I noticed however, was crazy! In the beginning I thought we were on a new highway, I had to stop and think about it, and realized I-90 had not changed, but the ride in the truck was phenomenal. The bouncing, and the bucking sensation in the truck was gone! I knew then I had happened onto something big. From that time on, our selling of the product centered around the ride of the occupants in the truck compared to a standard hitch or and air spring hitch.
With this new model of air cell hitch we have made considerable improvements over the previous models. We have been able to eliminate some parts by incorporating them into a new design among other things. Our newest addition to improvements is an added security for the hitch. We now offer an added security to the hitch in that if the hitch is not locked in place for towing, a red light will light up and also the trailer brakes will become engaged. Once the hitch is secured to travel the light will go off and the trailer brakes will release.
I want to thank you for taking the time to hear my story and I hope it peaks your interest in our products. Take your time and snoop around the site. If you have any questions please feel free to call me. I get as much satisfaction out just of answering your questions as I do in making a sale.
Looking forward to seeing you,