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A Texas-sized road trip

Missouri couple tours all 254 courthouses in the Lone Star State

Created date

April 23rd, 2014
Susan and Jerry Smith
Susan and Jerry Smith

For Jerry and Susan Smith, adventure waits on the open road.

“We like to get in the car and go,” says Jerry, a retired regional service specialist for Eastman Kodak. “That’s our entertainment. We’ll find a country road and see where it takes us.”

In April 2011, the couple embarked on a Texas-sized road trip, inspired by a courthouse they’d seen on a day trip to Sulphur Springs, just over an hour east of their home in North Dallas.

“Most courthouses in Texas are located in the center of the county,” says Jerry. “Sulphur Springs is the county seat of Hopkins County, and the courthouse is unique. It’s very ornate and only has three entrances instead of the typical four entrances.”

After snapping pictures of the courthouse’s red Texas granite and pink sandstone exterior, Jerry and Susan came up with a plan.

“We decided to visit as many courthouses as we could,” says Jerry. “I searched the Internet and found out there are 254 courthouses in Texas. It became our goal to see every one of them.”

With the help of online maps and the GPS in his car, Jerry mapped out their route to maximize the number of courthouses they could visit in a single excursion.

“We sometimes saw up to five or six courthouses in a day,” says Jerry. “We’d take pictures of each courthouse, then hop back in the car and head to the next one.”

As the couple reached the outskirts of the territory they could cover in one day, Jerry and Susan planned weeklong trips to see the courthouses beyond their day-trip reach.

“Our limit for a day trip was 600 miles, round-trip,” says Jerry. “Once we got beyond that, we had to be away a little longer.”

A change for the better

Midway toward their goal, with 130 courthouses covered, Jerry and Susan made another momentous decision. They sold their Plano house of 28 years and moved to , an Erickson Living community in North Dallas.

“Moving to Highland Springs was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made,” says Jerry. “We don’t have to worry about anything. There’s no grass to mow or house to keep up. We can lock our door and go.”

Relinquishing the chores of home maintenance gave the couple more time to focus on their courthouse tours. They spent a week along the gulf coast, a week near El Paso, a week in the Rio Grande Valley, and a week in the Texas panhandle.

“We’ve probably seen more of Texas than most native-born Texans,” says Jerry. “Susan and I were born and raised in Joplin, Mo. Kodak transferred me to Dallas over 30 years ago.”

All roads lead back to Highland Springs

Jerry says traveling by car gave the couple a fresh appreciation for the vastness of the state. 

“Texas is a pretty good size piece of ground,” he says. “It goes from prairies to mountains to deserts—it’s just unbelievable. My favorite sights were the sunsets in Big Bend National Park. They were magnificent.”

Jerry and Susan ended their Texas courthouse tour in 2013, not far from where their journey began.

“Our last stop was the Tarrant County Courthouse in Fort Worth,” says Jerry. “Now we’re on to our next goal.”

Thanks to Highland Springs’ proximity to the Texas-Oklahoma border, the couple has decided to visit every one of Oklahoma’s 77 courthouses. So far, they’ve seen all the courthouses east of Interstate 35.

Joy in the journey

“I’ve always liked to drive, and getting out every day gives Susan and me a chance to go on an adventure together,” says Jerry.

The couple’s 2007 sedan, now registering more than 165,000 miles, has been akin to a faithful steed for the past several years.

“We’ve never broken down or had a flat tire,” says Jerry. “A rock hit our windshield and we had to replace it, but that’s been our only mishap. Every day is a new day. We don’t always know where the road will take us, but we have fun getting there.”