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story.lead_photo.caption Sean Clancy, Paper Trails columnist

COUNTY SEAT RAMBLERS When things started going sideways because of the coronavirus pandemic, people were looking for something to do. Some started baking, others took up sewing and made masks, still others became gardeners or started a fitness routine.

Todd Norris' pandemic project involved a quest. The soft-spoken 48-year-old Sherwood resident figured it was as good a time as any to visit all of Arkansas' county seats, so on weekends he and his wife, Cara, hopped into their Subaru Crosstrek and hit the road.

"We had a lot of spare time to fill," he says. "I made a list of all the counties and county seats and we just started going. I knew it may take a few weeks, but I thought, why not?"

Since they live in Central Arkansas, most of their trips were one-day excursions, though a few stretched out across a weekend.

"The first big trip we did, we drove to Jonesboro and hit a lot of the small towns in the northeast corner and then we drove across the top of the state to Bentonville," says Norris, who works for ABC Financial.

There are 75 counties in Arkansas, but 10 of those -- Arkansas, Carroll, Clay, Craighead, Franklin, Logan, Mississippi, Prairie, Sebastian and Yell -- have two county seats.

"Some of those I visited both, and some I didn't," Norris says.

The two Arkansas travelers found plenty of pleasant surprises on their journeys.

A couple of standouts, Norris says, include the park dedicated to the Beatles in Walnut Ridge, the county seat of Lawrence County, and the Statue of Liberty replica in Greene County seat Paragould.

Norris shared pictures from his project on Reddit.

"There are a lot of really interesting cities I would have not gone to otherwise," he says. "Plus, I'm from El Dorado, so I've spent most of my time down south. There is a lot of stuff in the north that I hadn't seen before ... towns like Jasper and Mountain View. It's gorgeous up there."

Visiting the county seats -- or all of Arkansas' state parks, which may be the couple's next adventure -- is a nice goal, but as Norris says, "It's really just a framework to get out. Having something to do, getting out and seeing something you haven't seen before, meeting people you would have never met."

See Norris' photos at

SHE SAID YES: Charlie McDowell, 37, the son of Newport native and Academy-Award winning actress Mary Steenburgen and English actor Malcolm McDowell, popped the question last month to girlfriend Lily Collins.

On Sept. 25, Collins, the 31-year-old daughter of singer Phil Collins and star of the Netflix show "Emily in Paris," shared a photo of her engagement ring, a "custom, one-of-a-kind rose-cut diamond" made by jeweler Irene Neuwirth.



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