Journey Through Minnesota State Parks on E85

September of 2016 started a new and exciting challenge for my husband and me. While visiting family on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, we decided to add in a weekend of camping so we booked two nights at the Minnesota Saint Croix State Park. We tent camped, hiked, and even survived an intense thunderstorm, but while preparing to canoe on the St. Croix River one afternoon, we realized we’d forgotten canoe paddles! A visit to the park’s gift shop and boat rental office quickly solved our problem. It was there where we discovered the MN State Parks Passport Club and where the real journey began.

Currently there are 77 parks and recreation areas to visit and the goal for Passport Club participants is to collect a passport stamp at every one of those 77 sites. After the fun weekend at Saint Croix, our meandering trip south toward Saint Paul took us past five more parks. Born out of that discovery was the challenge to complete the passport in one year.

Minnesota is unique in that it has so many State Parks, and it is also unique in having the most E85 stations of any other state in the nation. Minnesota has more than 370 E85 stations,130 of which have blender pumps offering mid-level blends like E30, and there are 270 stations in the state selling E15. While there are over 400,000 flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) in Minnesota, not everyone is aware that their vehicle can use E85. As the proud owner of a FFV—Chevy HHR—we are dedicated to leaving as small a footprint with our travels as possible, and that included completing our State Park passport challenge. During the course of our year-long challenge, we drove well over 7,000 miles on a fuel that helps keep the air in and around the state parks clean: E85. There were very few areas in Minnesota without an E85 station, requiring us to use petroleum gasoline instead of E85. But using only 10 gallons of petroleum gasoline on a trip where 7,494 total miles were traveled is not bad!

We tried to decide our top three favorite parks, but found it impossible to narrow down. Across our state you can find beautiful hiking trails along rivers, great fishing, informative signage, rich history, and quiet camping.

We are often asked why we did the park experience in just one year. There are a few reasons, though it all circles back to my mom and her struggle to breathe. Throughout her life my mom loved being active, but in October 2012, she passed away from COPD. She was only 58. In honor of her I began a personal goal to do something challenging or active each fall. I hope accomplishing my challenges and talking about my experiences will raise awareness about the significance and prevalence of lung disease. I hope it helps others make a difference in their own way, whether that means choosing to use a cleaner fuel for better air quality or funding research to find a cure for lung disease. That was why we completed our State Park Passport in one year, and that's why using flex fuels like E85 were a priority on this journey.

If you're out there enjoying Minnesota's great outdoors during this last weekend of National Camping Month and happen to be one of the 400,000 Minnesotans driving a flex fuel vehicle, know that E85 is never far from your campsite.

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