2,400-Mile Vacation Powered By E85

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by Robert White, Vice President of Industry Relations, Renewable Fuels Association

Washington, DC - The average U.S. worker leaves nearly half of his or her vacation days on the table each year. I am usually guilty of this too, but this year I wanted to make the most of time off and find a fun trip for myself, my wife and our 13-month-old daughter. We decided on visiting some national parks and monuments in Colorado and Utah. Naturally, this adventure had to be done in a Flex Fuel vehicle, and we chose our 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee as our mode of transportation. The goal – to make the nearly 2,400-mile trip using only E85!  

The first tank of E85 was purchased in Olathe, Kan., before we departed, and lasted just into Colorado. Our next fuel stop was in Burlington, Colo., at a unique location-- a tire shop. There was a hard-to-miss dispenser donated by the Colorado Corn Growers Association and featured one of their producers on the end cap, explaining the benefits of using ethanol-blended fuel. The station, located just off the interstate, offered E10, E20, E40 and E85. If drivers were looking for E85 and using RFA’s locator at E85prices.com, they would find it with ease. 

 

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The next stop was not out of fuel necessity, but who could pass up checking out one of Kum & Go’s new E15/E85 stations in Colorado Springs, Colo.? Not this guy. The station was beautiful and hopping. As usual, the price was just right for E85 and for E15. E85 was a 28% discount to regular unleaded, and E15 was a 4% discount. I topped-off with E85, and refreshed the snacks.

 

For those that have not experienced 85-octane gasoline in the Rocky Mountain Region, it also affects E15. Specifically, E15 is only 86 octane, and like 85 octane, it is typically not high enough to be approved by any engine manufacturer. There are also no warning labels on 85-octane, alerting consumers about this non-approved fuel, but there are on E15 and E85. Apparently AAA, the American Motorcyclist Association and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute see no issue with this? The move to a minimum octane standard is important, and will clearly cost the oil companies millions if they lose the opportunity to dump this low-octane fuel into the marketplace. They claim that it is only sold at high altitude, but it was available all throughout this part our trip.

 

We made it to our first destination, which was Gunnison, Colo. The young one was reaching her “time in the car” limit, so we visited Hartman Rocks, a recreation area just outside of Gunnison. The next day we explored the area around Curecanti National Recreation Area between Gunnison and Montrose. This day included a 5+ hour off-road adventure on a closed, 4-wheel drive trail. No, it was not on purpose. Needless to say I was happy when this day was over.

 

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From there we visited the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park. If you like the Grand Canyon, you must visit this national park. It is a thing of beauty, as was the next E85 station. The fuel range on the Grand Cherokee was down to under 50 miles, but Western Convenience was there for us to fuel again. Western Convenience, which operates numerous E85 stations in Colorado and two in Nebraska, has promoted E85 for years at its stations and on its website.   

We then opted for the scenic route to Moab, Utah, and went south between the San Juan and Uncompahgre National Forests. After exploring Canyonlands National Park, both the Needles and the Island in the Sky Districts, we opted to locate our next fuel stop in Monticello, Utah. Unfortunately, the station had opted to switch their E85 to diesel, which meant we were likely going to miss our goal by a few gallons. To ensure drivers don’t make the same mistake I made, the listing has since been removed from our station locator.  

We then explored the Arches National Park and headed back towards Colorado. We stopped at the Colorado National Monument between Fruita and Grand Junction. In Grand Junction, we found our next E85 station, operated by Western Convenience. Ironically, this station was out of everything but E85 and diesel, something recently seen with the hurricanes in Texas and Florida. The station attendants offered no explanation, but I thanked them for offering E85. We did find another Kum & Go offering E85 in Rifle, Colo., and topped off there. We then headed to Glenwood Springs to visit the amazing Glenwood Hot Springs

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Sadly, the final trek home was not as adventurous-- 11 hours on I-70. We stopped again in Burlington, Colo., and made it back across Kansas on that tank. We had plenty of E85, but would have preferred a less antsy young one in the back seat.  

People claim that change is always hard, and using an alternative fuel is no different. I may have not accomplished my goal of using only E85, but I did drive nearly 2,400 miles on just 20 gallons of gasoline! I am proud that the rest of my required fuel came from our domestic ethanol industry.  

Travel safe!