On the Calends of March - In the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies - CycleBlaze

March 1, 2019 to March 2, 2019

On the Calends of March

The Roman Calendar

I’m regularly surprised in the course of writing up the day to stumble across some new fact or information that’s never caught my attention before.  It’s one of the unexpected side benefits of keeping a journal, and one I’m really enjoying.   Today, it’s the Roman Calendar.   I don’t know that I’ve ever given much thought to it, but it came up today as I was wondering how to title this post, the first in the new month.  The Ides of March came to mind, which led me to wonder whether the Romans had names for other days of the month as well.  Especially since this is departure month, I thought it would be apt to name the post for the first day of it, using its Roman name.

Interestingly, the Romans had specific names for just three days of the month: Calends (from which the word for calendar derives, I imagine) is the first of the month; Nones is the 7th day of the month on long months (March, May, Quintilus and October) or the 5th day of the other months; and Ides is  the fifteenth day of long months, or the thirteenth day of the others.

The other days of the month were named relative to the three major days.    For example, the 2nd day of a long month is Nones 6 (six days before Nones); or Nones 4 in a short month.  Or so I understand.  If you know any old Romans (or if you grew up Catholic, I suppose), please correct me if I’ve gotten it wrong. 

On the Calends of March

We’ve been looking forward to this ‘weekend’ (actually, Friday and Saturday) when we have two open days in the calendar and can head over to Astoria on the coast for a change of scene.  Astoria is one of our favorite off-season escapes, and often when the weather is soggy in the valley it’s crisp, clear and ten degrees warmer over on the coast.  We’ve been watching the weather forecast all week, and it looks just the right pattern - fair over there, and not so much here.

Until over the last 24 hours, when the forecast gradually changed.  Now it looks the opposite there, and it seems foolish to take a two hour drive to the coast and pay for a motel room when the weather at home looks cold but brilliant.  Last night we decided to scrap that plan and stay close to home instead.  We’d still welcome a change of scene though, so we decide to compromise by driving a short ways out of town for a pair of rides in Washington County.  Today we head over to Banks for a ride up to Vernonia on the beautiful rail-trail conversion, a paved path that keeps you in the woods and away from traffic for the entire 21 miles each way.  We get an early start and are on the trail by 10 because we want to get home in time for a meal and film tonight.

Maybe because we’ve ridden this trail a few times in the past and we formed this plan in such a rush, I didn’t really do any research.  I remembered it as being a very gradual climb the whole way, but didn’t think about elevation and whether we’d run into snow.  In fact though, I badly misremembered.  The trail climbs steadily for the first 12 miles to an elevation just shy of a thousand feet; but after that it steadily drops all the way to Vernonia.

I should have done the research, because we might have completed the whole ride.  As it was, we turned back at mile 12 when there was enough snow on the trail that it didn’t seem wise to continue, as we were thinking we’d just continue climbing and seeing more snow anyway.  In fact though, we were already descending when we turned back.  The snow was worse on the way down, presumably because there is less sun exposure on the north side of the apex.  I’ll bet that if we had continued on just a bit further we would have dropped out of the snow zone again and had a dry ride the rest of the way to Vernonia.

Whatever.  It was a fine ride anyway, even if cut short of our original plan.  Nice to get a change of scene and a bit of adventure.  With friends and relatives to the east and north freezing through a historically harsh winter, it’s about time we dipped a toe into the snow ourselves so we can commiserate just a bit.

Leaving Banks at the start of the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. We’re at an elevation of about 180 feet here, and the trail ends 21 miles away at Vernonia, elevation 650. We’ll see how far we get.
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The first few miles cross the cultivated valley floor, featuring plowed, muddy fields and an occasional old farm structure.
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Some cows for Steve, but feel free to admire them yourselves
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Steve Miller/GrampiesI've been trying to encourage Jeff to provide for inserting links and photos in these comments. But since we do not have that yet, I put a cow for you here: https://www.cycleblaze.com/journals/tortes/the-weather/
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1 month ago
Glen AdamsI think it's a steer, but tummy 'tasle' could be the tail end from the cattle beast behind. Nice Jerseys anyway.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Glen AdamsOh. Could be - I’m a city boy, so what do I know? Mostly though, I was just showing off for Steve of the Grampies, who has chided (chidden?) me in the past for not posting more cow photos.
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2 weeks ago
After leaving the farmed flatlands the trail gradually ascends, passing through a variety of woods. It’s a very peaceful ride this morning - on the way up, we encounter only a single bike coming back the other way.
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I love these alder stands in the winter, when they’ve lost their foliage.
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Buxton Trestle, one of the most scenic spots on the trail.
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Ten miles into the climb we encounter the first traces of snow on the ground, at about 600’ elevation. We’re still steadily climbing, so we suspect we won’t be making it to Vernonia after all.
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A nice stone wall at about 950’ at what must be the high point of the trail.
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At mile 12 we decide it’s time to turn back. The tracks ahead must be of the one biker we encountered earlier. Surprisingly though we’re gradually losing elevation now and if we continued on would drop another three hundred feet before reaching Vernonia. If we’d known this at the time we might have plowed on a bit longer, hoping we might drop out of the snow soon.
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The way down was very cold. We hadn’t noticed on the way up, but we had a slight tailwind. On the way down we’re biking much faster, we have a cold headwind, the air is damp, and so are our feet. It’s a relief to get back to the car and turn on the heater.
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On the 6 Nones of March

The morning gets off to a confusing start.  Yesterday Rachael stole a trick from my book and lost her glasses.  She didn’t realize it before walking to dinner last night, and ended up wearing her backup pair for the evening.

We looked everywhere we could think of after the film last night, and then again this morning.  No luck.  She must have lost them yesterday on the ride somewhere, and postulates that she had one of the vents on her jacket unzipped and dropped them through it by mistake when she thought she was putting them in her pocket.  She can’t remember when she took them off, but has a few ideas.

We discuss back and forth whether we should go back and reride part of the trail to look for them.  What are the odds that they’ll still be there, or that we will see them, or that they haven’t been stepped on or rolled over anyway?  Probably not great.  Just in case though, I craft a ride for the day that includes the trailhead.  When we get there we can see how we’re feeling and decide how much we want to invest in a hunt.

As we’re leaving, Rachael wheels her bike out the door and then realizes she doesn’t have her phone either.  She asks me if I’ve seen it, so I look in the rucksack we took to the film last night.  The phone isn’t there of course, because it’s right on the counter in plain sight.  What is there though is Rachael’s glasses, in a place neither of us thought to look.  It feels like Christmas.

After that, we quickly decide that neither of us wants to hop in the car.  Instead, we set off on a 45 mile loop: east out Springwater; north to Fairview and Chinook Landing; west along the Columbia to Vanport; and then south again.  It’s familiar territory, but it feels fresh because: 1) it’s another astonishingly clear day; and 2) it’s cold, just above freezing; and 3) it’s very windy, blowing about 25 mph at the eastern end of the loop.

Biking into a 25 mph wind on a near freezing day doesn’t quite qualify as fun for either of us, but it certainly qualifies as a workout.  At first Rachael tries to keep herself warm and motivated by imagining we’re in Sicily already, but it doesn’t really work - her body isn’t fooled.  I keep myself motivated by counting down the miles (actually, the tenths of miles) all the way to Chinook Landing, at the halfway point of the ride.  I know that our work will be all but over there, as we’ll have the wind at our backs for the ride home.

I’m right.  The ride home from Chinook Landing is a blast, and brilliant.  We make great time all the way to Columbia Slough, when I’m arrested by a marsh hawk gliding low across the slough.  I don’t see many marsh hawks here, and I never manage to get a decent shot of one - they’re always in motion, sweeping low above the ground looking for a quick snack, hard to focus on and usually just out of good camera range.  

Unexpectedly though, this one pulls up on a fence post not far from the path, and not all that far from me.  Rachael continues on (I won’t see her again until I get home) while I fall behind and gradually close in on the hawk, taking the best shot I can before encroaching further.  I get too close, and he takes flight but comes to rest again further down the fence.  Repeat.  And repeat.  

Finally he’s really had enough, and flies off for good.  And a good thing for me too.  I’ve been standing around in the cold wind with my gloves off for too long, and things are going numb.  Time to get a move on.

This weather! It’s incredible to be out on yet another crystalline day. This is a great spot on Springwater, with a long clear view of the mountain. I’m zoomed in on Rachael here, probably a good quarter mile away.
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On the Gresham-Fairview trail, the north-south connector between Springwater and the river. This spot, a protected wetland full of waterfowl east of Powell Butte, is much more scenic than it looks. You have to look past the transmission lines to appreciate it.
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Looking across to Washington from Chinook Landing
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The exposed roots on this cottonwood almost look like stilt roots.
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Do you think geese have any aesthetic sense? They’ve got quite a view to admire here.
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Westbound along Marine Drive, racing ahead of a great tailwind. I stopped to grab a shot of my biking buddy but then focused on the bird perched on the sign in the river.
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This ruffled gull reminded me a flag flapping in the wind.
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Along Columbia Slough. Yes, I know we’re seeing this mountain a lot, but how many more days like this can we expect?
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Marsh hawk sees his shadow, Columbia Slough
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If I hadn’t seen him gliding low over the slough with his unmistakable white rump band, I’m not sure I’d have known this was a marsh hawk. Its a pretty unusual sighting out here.
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This is almost a really good shot. I wish the light had been a bit better, and I think it’s a bit blurry because I started when he suddenly took wing.
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Keith KleinHi Scott,

Lapsed Catholic here. The church uses the Gregorian calendar. Pope Gregory you know. So the news about the Roman calendar is also news to me. Ya learn something every day.

Cheers,
Keith
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith KleinI knew we were on the same calendar now, but thought maybe the Roman one might have been discussed in Latin class. I took Latin also in high school - my generation must be about the last to offer it in a secular school - but I don’t remember much beyond the fact that all of Gaul is divided into three parts.
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1 month ago
Keith KleinTo Scott AndersonHi again,
"Tutti galli en tres partes est" or as the class clown would have it "all Gaul is quartered into three halves". We did learn about the Julian calendar, but alas it was with numbered days and no calends or ides. I wonder if caesar's reforms eliminated the rather awkward ancient way of telling the days. Things for small minds to ponder.
Cheers,
Keith
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1 month ago