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Travels showcase America the beautiful

The fall is a wonderful time to travel because of the vivid colors of the foliage.

So, each fall, Joyce Austin of Troy organizes a rather extended trip and invites a bus load of friends and neighbors to come along.

Austin has been planning bus tours for nearly 36 years.

Her travels take her from coast to coast and are certain to be fun, exciting and educational.

Austin’s “Friendship Charter” recently returned from a 15-day tour of the New England states and, actually, delivered more than it promised.

“It was a wonderful trip from beginning to end,” Austin said.

“We went up through Ohio and traveled along Lake Erie and saw some unusual and beautiful scenery.

“We went on to Niagara Falls and the falls were magnificent. On the way, from Niagara Falls, we crossed the Adirondack Mountains and then toured the site of the 1980 Olympic Games at Lake Placid. That was very exciting.”

On the way into the heart of the Green Mountains, the group spent a couple of nights in Burlington, Vt. where they toured a hodgepodge of factories, including factories that make teddy bears, chocolates, ice cream, cheddar cheese and press cider.

“In the Green Mountains area, we visited Wilson Castle and the Norman Rockwell Museum,” Austin said. “Then we left for Maine where we visited the Portland Head Light at Cape Elizabeth.

“It was built in 1791 and is one of the most scenic lights in the United States.”

In Maine, the group also visited the historic town of Kennebunkport and attended a Maine lobster bake.

All along the way and through every state, the group of Alabama travelers was treated in grand style.

However, it was not until they reached Washington D.C. that they got the real “star” treatment.

They visited many of the famous monuments, toured parts of the Smithsonian and toured the U.S. Capitol and that’s where they were recognized as VIPs by Alabama Congressman Bobby Bright.

“We had a photograph taken with Congressman Bright at the new Visitor’s Center and that was very exciting,” Austin said.

“He took time to meet with us and we really appreciated that. We were all impressed with the new Visitors Center.

“They have statues representing each state and Alabama is represented by a statue of Helen Keller. We all thought that was appropriate.”

Austin said one of the most memorable sites they visited on the 15-day tour was the World War II Monument.

“A lot of World War II veterans were there and that was a moving experience for all of us,” she said.

“It was a wonderful trip. I’ve been leading trips for about 35 years and this was one of the best.”

Austin leads three or four trips a year and has a short trip planned for Pigeon Forge, Tenn. to end the year 2009.

Already, she is planning a trip to Holland, Mich. in the spring to see the tulips.

From there, she’s not sure, but wherever the travels lead, there’s a guarantee of seeing America the Beautiful.