Bringing peace and Coca-Cola to the world - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

Bringing peace and Coca-Cola to the world

DO YOU KNOW how Coca-Cola came to be sold in Europe?

Well, if you take a roundabout route from the Elysée Palace to the American embassy, you pass a hotel on a busy corner. Fixed to the wall and ignored by most who pass, because they've seen it so often, is a plaque. It marks where the USA and the nations of western Europe agreed on Marshall Aid.

The Elysée Palace is home to the president, Marshall Aid was the support that the USA gave western Europe after the war, and the embassy is the impressive building near the Place de la Concorde from where the Head American In Paris travels to see France's little boss.

Marshall Aid didn't come without strings. Much of the money had to be spent on American goods. Among them, Coca-Cola. The communists, a big force in the Resistance and again in politics after the war, saw Coca-Cola as colonisation. They took their guidance from Moscow, the Kremlin had been against Marshall's gifts and so French communists made a little film in which a Coke salesman tries to persuade French countrymen to abandon their wine - and is sent away with jeers as his demon brew is spat into sinks.

Steph will walk past that plaque after the weekend. She is going to the embassy for her visa. She has already agreed on the application that she won't engage in subversive activity and that she isn't sought by the police of five continents.

It should all be straightforward. America, unasked, generously gave me a 10-year visa last time so I'm gambling the "M" on it means "multiple entry." Perhaps it would be wise to check...

We are not crossing snowbound France just to see Uncle Sam. This is the weekend of the Grand Mass of French cycle-touring, the annual get-together of Cycle-Camping International. All year, senior members have been picking the best of picture shows of bike tours submitted by members. And this weekend we shall sit in a professional lecture theatre out in St-Denis, one of France's communist boroughs where Coca-Cola seems nevertheless well established, and dream dreams as we go vicariously round the world on two wheels.

If I can work out the valves and widgets of computerised presentations, I'll show them our Northern Tier ride next year. At the moment, the program seems more terrifying than riding four months across North America.

Neil knows about these things. I may just ship the whole lot to him with a $10 note and see if he'll sort it all out for me. For the sake of America, Coca-Cola and world peace.

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UPDATE: The visa application went well. Half an hour hanging about outside the embassy in January, then two hours inside it, but apart from that no trouble.

The American website says to bring every document and bank statement you have ever owned, to prove you prefer your own home to picking oranges in Florida and that you have oodles of money. Nobody looked at any of it. The man seemed perplexed at the notion of pedalling across his continent but concluded in a bemused way that nobody cycling four months would have the energy to do a job on the side. And, as he put it, "You won't need much money to do that."

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