Alien Bear Grin

Wisdom is to have dreams that are big enough not to lose sight when we pursue them! -Oscar Wilde

We leave Solaro early next morning and really force the pedal to the metal. The road continues straight as a ruler thru flat land towards north. We pass some fenced piece of land with occasional road side restaurants and hotels. The scenery is wide and restful. Mountains of inland to the left and burning sun on the right of us. Blue sky ahead is open for a sunny day. As the old beast of burden does pretty obviously not have any air conditioning we keep windows open. That is an excellent alternative since it really gives us feeling of open space and all the distinct aroma of beautiful and ever warming landscape. If our car was a normal 2CV then I could let the roof canvas down. The vehicle is, however, as previously noted, so called Fourgonnette van with hard top.

We soon leave Solaro completely behind and enter territoire de la Côtés des Nacrés by going over a bridge that crosses the dried riverbed from the mountains. This is the Travo river, a small coastal river, that takes source west of Monte Incudine, near the Bocca di Chiralba at 1743 meters above sea level and flows into the Tyrrhenian Sea between the towns of Ventiseri and Solaro. The Travo river is famous for kayaking and trekking among active tourists seeking real hand on experience on the landscape of Corsica. Village of Nacrés turns also as a delight to the eye and serves us alternative view after driving thru the countryside. The vaguely picturesque small community intrigues me and I would of course want to stop there even if for a few days. Instead we halt on the sandy open air cinema parking lot for a short overall view and then leave with a few turns around laughing while making dust. How stupid and useless but surprisingly amusing.

The National Road 198 passes the triple armor fence of air base 126 Ventiseri-Solenzara on the eastern side. Signs on the fence indicate restricted military zone with photographing prohibited. Why did they establish a high secrecy demanding airfield premises on such open area? There are two logical reasons I can imagine. The land is flat by default so building a runaway is easy. Also the service that is required in means of fuel and food and ammunition is provided by sea.

This NATO airfield runway is nearly 2650 meters in length and was established in 1960. It is currently serving as tactical training center. The garrison has about 950 persons and along them it can accommodate up to 40 fighter planes and 10 tactical transport aircrafts. Any airbase on these islands west from Italy practically reminds me of book Catch-22 and story of Captain John Yossarian serving as a U.S. Army Air Forces B-25 bombardier.

Idea of visiting the airbase fascinates but then again how would we, plain tourists, be welcome without any official invitation. In addition to that we are in a rush. I cannot be without noticing the grin of an alien bear on my new co-driver’s shining green eyes. Most likely due to me being able to make those narrow 125×15 tires of old Citroën 2CV to scream occasionally. Quenza is a little green and furry teddy bear from somewhere quite far, I think. I had him picked up from the campground lost property corner since he demanded me to take him to the town of Bastia and make it fast. I did not question his reasons but without slightest hesitation grabbed him by the hand and there he is now riding shotgun as we scud thru the road of east Corsica passing roadside vineyards and all green country.

Quenza turns out to be one magnificent companion for keeping both of us in good spirits and awake on such a peaceful road trip. He is telling stories about a sound man of Grateful Death, Augustus Owsley Stanley the third, also known as Bear. I guess all extraordinary bears know each other by default. He lists the islands in the Mediterranean by heart and finally explains me the principles of Maxwell’s demon, all about violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics. When I think nothing could surprise me any more, Quenza clearly enjoys himself by describing the life of French leader of the UFO religion known as Raëlism, Claude Maurice Marcel Vorilhon. We then discuss vaguely about ancient astronauts, book of Ezekiel and end up to Greek dark ages by lunch time.

After tasty Pasta Norma and several glasses of cold water we are ready and eager to pick up where we left in driving and especially in conversation. We share our views of Pale Blue Dot, a picture snapped by Voyager 1 space probe, without forgetting astronomer and author Carl Sagan. We also discover and share the opinion that a voyage to planet Mars is something the human kind is nowadays anticipating with the same urge that made sailors from ancient Africa accidentally reach the shores of America and like people from South America that settled Polynesia. For them these voyages were meant to be one way only and even our bold technology keeps evolving the Martian explorers of future probably need to accept exactly same destiny still for quite long time.

We then come inspired to recite poems and I start by letting out loud one of my own.

“Further away of the sun-shade
on the yellow sand
turquoise surf waves hug and fade

Close behind the dark glasses
from the sunburnt hand
rosy dreams flow between the fingers

A candle turns weak in watch tower
with a sideswiped wand
the wind is free for a sea bird’s hover
– The victim in bed 7 is a gonner.”

Then Quenza replies improvising out of the moment.

“I hear light steps on my tomb
asking you to dance beside me
bringing joy of flowers to my day
and a blue prayer for the night”

The speed and extra strain probably affected to the next episode as we quickly learned to know how it feels to ride a 2VC with exploded front tire. Luckily it broke on shotgun side and did not force us in the oncoming lane but leaning heavily towards the wild bushes of roadside. After smoking breaks and branches striking the windshield it become very quiet for a little moment. While grasping my breath Quenza yells tears in his terrified eyes “Throttle Up! Feel that mother go!” I’m unable to comment anything more but “Now, let us pray for Shackleton.”

One flatbed truck slowed soon down ahead of us. The driver did not resemble my memory of Sir Ernest but he still offered for assistance. Feeling comfortable enough I shaked head to Quenza and he promptly replied with amazingly manly voice “Ne vous inquiétez pas, nous gérons bien. Merci!” from the shadow of our tiny vehicle. I was feeling a bit of ashamed of my lame French and felt admiration for my furry assistant. The left wheel tyre was ruined but rim looked intact. Spare wheel was in place under the bonnet and then we only needed to find suitable tools like jack and wheel nut wrench. It took us hefty fifteen minutes to change the wheel and check the car for any other damages. As we did not find any other visible problems we packed all tools and the exploded tyre back to the Citroën and accelerated back to the open road.

I really don’t know about Quenza’s sensation right after our accident but recalled that those words he yelled at halt, became known and famous from another accident of considerable devastating scale. The disaster occurred on January 28, 1986, as Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart after 73 seconds flight, leading to the deaths of its all crew members. Disintegration of the space shuttle began after an O-ring seal failing in its right side solid rocket booster. Design engineers later added a third O-ring seal to the joints between the segments due to this disaster. We came into a common conclusion with Quenza. It was easy to say but human kind and green teddy bears were evidently counting much too heavily on rubber rings of various size.

The commune of Ghisonaccia is the next step towards Aleria and Bastia. It has a population about 3000 and some of the best beaches on eastern Corsica. I cannot let myself down by missing the sea shore despite of Quenza’s urge to Bastia. We agree a quick side step to beach thru Route de la Mer. At first we think to take a left turn that would lead us to camping U Casone. It has been here since 1972 with good reputation but after discovering from the map that it is not directly on the beach, we instead continue the road ahead as that should end to the sea.

After spending good time in the sea I grab a portion of moules frites with bottle of water to go from the little beach restaurant. I notice Quenza still sleeping in the shade of Citroën. I could take a nap as well but while being hungry I first finnish my pot of Belgian national dish and suddenly realize having more things common to Belgians than just Tintin. With full stomach I lay down in the shadow of 2CV trunk actually spacious enough even for two person.

I wake up shivering at very late dinner time. The night has fallen and no matter where I look Quenza is nowhere in sight. After a while I spot a piece of paper under the windshield wiper. It’s a handwritten note from Quenza. “Did not want to wake you. I need to rush for Bastia and sorry to say, decided to hitchhike with nice family leaving right away. Thank’s for the ride and pleasant companion. Yours truly, Quenza.” Whoo-ah! That little green teddy bear really was in a hurry!

I don’t feel especially confident in driving on foreign road under pitch black night sky but after exceptionally long afternoon nap I don’t actually have too many good alternatives. What would I do here anymore? After studying the map I decide to continue at least to Moriani-Plage some 50 km north. Carrying enough fuel and water even to Bastia I still try to keep a realistic target. The headlights of this old 2CV resemble two yellow candles on sides of the hood. After a short thinking and encouraged by the engine purring like a kitten I finally collect all grit and head to the darkness.

✽”For scientific discovery give me Scott; for speed and efficiency of travel give me Amundsen; but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.” – Sir Raymond Priestly, Antarctic Explorer and Geologist.

This chapter is an example from yet unpublished volume
currently identified as "The Fast and Slow Rays"
by Yumatzuga (2011-2015).



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