Retired BSA professional completes 2021 goal of riding 50 miles in 50 states

Jeff Rand during 50-miler No. 22: Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park.

For 40 years, Jeff Rand traveled the United States, crisscrossing the country to help BSA units, districts and councils give their Scouts the best experience possible.

Rand traveled so much during his BSA career that he eventually visited every county (and county equivalent — like parishes, boroughs and independent cities) in the United States. He even took his travels to new heights by climbing to the highest point in all 50 states — a 15-year journey we documented upon its completion in 2019. 

After retiring, you might think Rand would want to settle down and just sit still for a while.

But that’s simply not how this Eagle Scout lives his life.

In 2021, Rand set out to ride 50 miles in all 50 states. He would once again crisscross the country, but this time he’d experience each state’s unique culture and geography from his Trek touring bike. 

To make things more interesting, Rand would spend most of his nights in a tent instead of a hotel — meaning he could claim to have camped in all 50 states, too.

It’s a lofty goal for any person, but it’s made even more impressive when you learn that Rand has only one arm. He lost his right arm in an accident when he was 4 years old.

“Every person faces challenges,” Rand told Bryan on Scouting in 2019. “These often represent hidden opportunities. Take advantage of them.”

Rand during 50-miler No. 12: Nevada.

50 states, 50 miles

Rand started his quest on Feb. 18, 2021, with a 50-mile ride in Florida. He finished on Oct. 5, 2021, with a half-century cycle in Tennessee. Along the way, he visited interesting landmarks, enjoyed local cuisine and reconnected with friends he’s met along the Scouting trail. 

Friends like Neil Lupton, a Distinguished Eagle Scout and Silver Buffalo Award recipient who has served with Rand on BSA national committees and task forces. Rand met Lupton for dinner in Massachusetts.

“Jeff Rand is an amazing person,” Lupton says. “I have had the honor and privilege of working with him for a number of years, and it is a delight and pleasure.” 

In the first year of the pandemic, Rand stopped traveling and avoiding getting together with friends in person. But the additional free time had some advantages.

“My health improved since I wasn’t eating in restaurants frequently on business trips,” Rand says. “And I had the opportunity to maintain an exercise regimen — riding my bicycle at least 20 miles on each of 121 consecutive days in 2020.”

Rand during 50-miler No. 18 in Dodge City, Kan.

How it started

As cycling became a daily part of Rand’s life, some friends suggested that he concentrate on finding the best ride in each state.  

He started looking for a 50-mile route in each state. 

“Having previously been in every county in the country, I had a good knowledge of state geographies,” Rand says. “I used the internet for additional research and remained somewhat flexible to weather conditions.”

Why 50 miles? There’s the obvious alignment with the number of states in the union, but that distance also matches a core requirement for the Cycling merit badge: map out a 50-mile bike trip and complete the journey in eight hours or less.

“Training and completing a 50-miler is the pinnacle of the requirements for the Cycling merit badge,” Rand says. “That made it a worthy goal for each state.”

Rand during 50-miler No. 40 in Casey, Ill.

How it unfolded

Rand told friends and family about his plan, and they were supportive. “Be safe,” was their main suggestion. 

“Most folks assumed I would be successful,” Rand says. “I didn’t predict success until I had ridden 40 miles in the last state.”

From his time as a Scout, youth leader in the Order of the Arrow and professional Scouter, Rand knew that any worthy goal starts with a plan. But he also knew that few plans are completed exactly as written. A leader is brave enough to monitor external conditions and stop early if it’s unsafe to continue.

“One should not focus on the success of the final product but concentrate on the current task,” Rand says. “Sometimes this may require an adjustment to understand priorities.” 

Rand during 50-miler No. 26 in Minnesota.

How he feels

Over the 230 days he spent completing his goal, Rand saw the country in a new way. He enjoyed a view most of us miss when zipping by on an interstate highway.

In Wyoming, he saw incredible mountain views at Grand Teton National Park — and a grizzly bear with her cubs.

In New Hampshire, he saw a swarm of summer visitors as he overcame steep hills and high humidity.

And in Wisconsin, he couldn’t ride by without stopping at the most unusual rest area he had ever seen.

The “artifacts” at a rest area in Wisconsin.

“I sat on one of the … ‘artifacts’ to enjoy my lunch,” Rand says.

Now that he has completed his latest quest, Rand appreciates how his exercise regimen prepared him for the journey. All that extra bike time at home made each 50-mile ride more enjoyable.

“There are many wonderful places to visit in these United States,” he says. “But they are best when you pursue healthy habits at home.”

About Bryan Wendell 3217 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.