September 4: Le jour de gloire est arrive! - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

September 4: Le jour de gloire est arrive!

Let the good times roll: Calgary was once a wild town of cowboys and oil men mixed.
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ALLONS, ENFANTS de la patrie,

Le jour de gloire est arrivé!

The opening lines, should you not recognise them, of the national anthem. Close to nine and a quarter thousand kilometres under our wheels and we're here. Nothing much by the standards of many who ride round the world, to be sure, but a little triumph for us.

We left Jérémie and Petra this morning and followed a riverside bike path into town. It is so popular that a separate path has been built for pedestrians. At one point we passed a park-and-bike car park and I wish I'd taken a picture of the sign.

Calgary: end of a long, long road
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Calgary is an oil town divided by a railway. In the old days, I suppose, the tracks would have run straight down the main street. Big black steam engines with bells and a cowcatcher would have created excitement as they brought strangers and returning friends, cattle and silks, and doubtless a few shady operators and gamblers.

Calgary still has the air of a remote town which only lately has found a reason - oil - to exist. Alberta found it in 1902 and then even more in 1947. The population of Calgary grew 272,000 between 1971 and

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1989 (675,000) and to 1,020,000 in 2007. Oil men arrive now not by train but at the new airport terminal, which has direct flights to Dallas. Only freight trains roll through town. The nearest passenger station is in Edmonton.

The city's downtown area could be anywhere in North America. It is new and unremarkable. There are modern office towers of a pleasing but forgettable aspect, and a single pedestrianised street which purports to be the "historical" centre because things happened there 150 years ago. A parallel street has the tramway line and looks uncertain whether it is pleased by that. One side of the road prospers in a less than glamorous way. The other has a strip of single-storey business buildings which stand grimy and empty, ready for demolition. The last flicker of life is a shabby café which offers unbeatable prices on sausage, egg and chips. Nobody need step into the open air because there are aerial walkways between neighbouring office blocks. It is clean, crisp and soulless.

Our last pedal turns were to an excellent bike shop called The Bike Shop. There our bikes are being boxed for the journey home. In with the boxes are replacement tyres, ready for wherever the next adventure takes us. We fly from Calgary at 9pm and then tomorrow afternoon from London to Toulouse.

Thank you for following our modest adventure. We have made many friends and had many wonderful experiences. Wherever the road takes you, have fun.

Au'voir pour l'instant!

Thanks, computer: you can stop counting now.
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