The walk from our cruise ship to where the shore excursion buses were waiting to take us to the Chaccohoben Mayan Ruins in Costa Maya, seemed endless. The pier at Costa Maya has to be the longest pier I have ever walked. No wonder we had been advised to give ourselves a goodly amount of time to get to where we were going.
Of course, it didn't help that the walk was made in the heat and humidity of an 80-degree day and a sun that was beating incessantly down on us. Perhaps coming so quickly from the sub-zero cold of Northern New Hampshire to the broiling heat of a land located on the Mexican Caribbean coast also had something to do with it. Whatever, it took longer for the old body to adjust and adapt than I can remember it taking before.
Once aboard the thankfully air-conditioned bus, however, we would have an hour's ride before dealing with the heat of the day once more. The drive to the ruins turned out to be not nearly as scenic as the tour description had made it out to be, but our Costa Mayan tour guide did his best to keep us interested and entertained by sharing his knowledge of the Mayan people who first settled Chacchoben in the Fourth Century. He himself was of Mayan heritage.
The guided and narrated tour around Chacchoben takes about two hours. As the description of the tour had warned, the ruins sit on ground that is very uneven. Walking the circular paths of the grounds calls for watching where one is stepping. Roots and stones can trip up the unwary. None the less, the Chacchoben Ruins Tour is the most often chosen one in Costa Maya.
Three impressive pyramids are to be seen at Chacchoben, a Mayan word meaning "place of red corn." Such structures are all the more impressive when the viewer realizes that these powerful symbols of a nation's greatness were all built by human hands, without the aid of modern day construction equipment. Many more structures of this once strong and vital civilization await their turn to be unearthed and restored to their former grandeur. What is seen and heard on this tour is well worth the time and money spent - a lesson in how civilizations first rise to power, and then either vanish completely, or find themselves reduced to playing supporting roles on history's stage.
Unlike the four hour tour we took in Costa Maya, the next day's on-shore excursion in Belize was an all-day one that proved to be an adventure in itself. The dock in Belize is not designed to handle cruise ships. Visiting ships have to drop anchor well off shore and use the ship's tenders to send their passengers to the mainland. From where our ship, the Emerald Princess, was anchored, it was roughly a half-hour ride to get to the pier. While the morning ride was rather pleasant, the return ride to the ship in the afternoon was a very bumpy one, with our driver seeming to hit every trough in his path.
To get to the Mayan ruins in Belize, there would be an hour-plus bus ride and a 22-mile speed boat run to the site of the ruins. Once there, another two-hour walk around the ruins awaited. My wife and I were among the few who backed out after the first half hour of the walk. There were 100 steps to be climbed, steps that were uneven and frequently required lifting the foot quite a bit to take the next step. Turning back had never been a part of my vocabulary. That day at the Belize ruins was a first.
The Mayan civilization that built the imposing structures at Belize dated back to 2000 B.C. At its zenith, it was a nation of two million people. They left quite a statement to their former grandeur. It would have been nice to have seen it all. Still, we felt the day in Belize was the best of our cruise's three ports of call.
By the time we got back to our ship, we had decided to forego the next day's planned shore excursion. No problem. Our tickets were easily resold by those manning the shore excursion desk.
Our next cruise will be a trans-Atlantic one, in what should be much more moderate weather. Nah, let me revise what I wrote above. We're not getting older. We're getting wiser.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 March 2015 11:34
Open government is not owned by anyone but the people. When a citizen in my district chooses to speak his or her mind, that person can walk through the doors of the State House without being stopped or questioned and can walk directly into my office. My door is always open. As New Hampshire citizens, we believe this is right because we believe that the Capitol is the people's house and that our job as legislators is to serve the people. I try to embody this belief and work very hard to respond to my constituents, even stopping in the hallways between sessions to hear what they have to say. If we disagree, we might even have a debate. Such respect and openness to our constituents is the envy of other states, where the citizenry may not have as direct access to their elected officials.
However, with every election we see the further encroachment of outside groups and interests in influencing our elections. This threat to our democracy is the direct result of the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. FEC. Now, dark money groups with secret donors can attempt to push their pet projects on lawmakers with possibly dishonest or underhanded tactics. These outside groups do not understand our pride in service to our constituents, but their influence is felt all the same. Now, rather than hearing voices of our constituents on the merit of the argument, we lawmakers are forced to contend with the threat of overwhelming finances of special interest groups should we choose to vote with our conscience. This only serves to disenfranchise both the lawmakers and our constituents. We feel this frustration so deeply that, when I was at a forum held in Manchester, former Senator Majority Leader George Mitchell, who spoke, said that the Citizens United decision was a very bad decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court.
This threat to our democracy must be met with a forceful and immediate response. Last year, I supported a bill calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Unfortunately, this bill failed to pass the legislature, and the problem has only worsened since. In the 2014 congressional election, outside groups spent more than 49 million dollars on three congressional races in New Hampshire- one of the highest amounts of outside spending in the nation.
The citizens of New Hampshire see this continual erosion of our democracy, and are appalled. According to a University of New Hampshire Survey Center Granite
State Poll, 69 percent of residents have said that they would support a constitutional amendment that limits corporate campaign contributions and spending. This support includes majorities on both sides of the political spectrum as well as independents1. Furthermore, 56 towns in New Hampshire passed town warrants in support of a constitutional amendment, including a unanimous vote in the conservative town of Derry2. On this issue, I have listened to concerned citizens from all walks of life - from high school students to seniors, and small business owners to farmers - who spoke on the issue. I've rarely seen an issue with such deep and bipartisan support.
It is imperative that, as legislators, we respond to our constituents and show them we can address this issue and restore trust in our government. Therefore, I call on my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass SB 136 this year.
New Hampshire State Senator Lou D'Allesandro represents District 20.
1) Azem Z., Smith, A., Granite State Poll, April 18, 2013. The University of New Hampshire Survey Center.
2) www.nh4democracy.org (NH Towns with Town Warrant Articles)
Last Updated on Monday, 16 March 2015 14:37
Once upon a Berlin Time
Hello fellow Berlinites. The past history of Berlin tells me that the Androscoggin River was frozen enough to skate on from here to Milan at times and to build the boom piers during the extreme cold winters. After taking a ride to Errol the other day, I noticed that our local river was frozen just the same as back in this city's older days. It was more frozen than I had ever seen it. Even the "rapids" below Pontook Dam were frozen over. It has certainly been a cold winter this year.
In the skiing news of February 1915, R. C. Paulsen of Berlin, a graduate of Berlin High School and a student at New Hampshire State College (UNH today), participated in the snow sports of the Dartmouth College Winter Carnival in Hanover. This great Berlin skier of one hundred years ago was the winner of the intercollegiate ski cross-country race and jumping contest.
Mr. Paulsen gave an exhibition of his work on skis which proved immensely popular with the huge crowd of carnival guests and undergraduates. Paulsen took four leaps off a snow mound built for this particular exhibition on the steepest slope of the golf links and each time while traveling at a tremendous rate of speed, did a perfect loop in mid air, coming safely to earth again right side up. On his fourth jump, to the thrill of the crowd, Paulsen landed perfectly and continued on downhill in precise form. This Berlin skier surely proved himself. Many young skiers from the Norwegian Village showed their skills on skis in and out of town back then.
Also in February, local patrolmen, under the guidance of Marshall George B. Day, were obliged to make a number of arrests for gambling. Four respondents pleaded not guilty to gambling on Sunday, February 7, 1915 in a home on Green Street and the evidence of the officers was to the effect that they had entered the premises and found money and cards on a table, with the accused just finishing the game in which they had participated.
It was announced in the February 25, 1915 local newspaper that a post office building was going to be erected in Berlin during 1917-1918. The mayor of Berlin, Daniel Daley had received a notice from U. S. Sen. Henry Hollis about the site construction of a new federal building on the corner of Main and Mason Streets, where Gallus-Green realtors now (2015) stands.
On Monday night, March 1, 1915, the Princess Theater came under new management one year after being built. The new managers were Mr. Gray and Mr. McDonough. Under this new supervision, pictures would be materially different from the previous administrators. At this point, the Princess would offer for the public's approval, pictures of progress and power. "Satisfaction today, but a little better tomorrow", was the plea of the Princess for popularity.
The local newspaper gave a great story in support of Mayor Daniel L Daley just before the elections of 1915. It told of all the improvements which took place under his leadership, including the building of the City Hall in 1913. He came to Berlin when "Berlin Falls" was a minute spot on the map and had devoted his life to the development of this straggling village to the present city that it was. As he looked back over the past years, he said that Berlin's growth and prosperity was "all of which he saw and part of which he was".
Being backed up by the local media, it was said that the qualifications of Mr. Daley for the office of Mayor were "far beyond the necessity to mention or comment upon". This city had prospered under his guidance and no adverse criticism of his administration had been made than the usual "viewing with alarm", which always took place at election time.
Even though Mayor Daley had served this city with admiration since 1910, the voting citizens (men only) decided that it was time for change, thus they elected George F. Rich in 1915, who served as chief administrator until 1919.
The City Garage, which was where today's Vaillancourt and Woodward Insurance Company is at Exchange Place today (2015), was mentioned in the news when owner Mr. Joe Gosselin had completed a course to upgrade his qualifications as a mechanic. He had finished a course in electric science and its application to the operation of automobiles with the Electric Storage Battery Company of Boston.
Gosselin had been given special attention to the Gray and Davis starting and lighting system, the Delco starting and lighting system and the Wagner electric starter and lighting devices. These were the leading mechanisms of their kind in use in standard cars of 1915 and a thorough knowledge of their operation made Mr. Gosselin and the City Garage a well known and thoroughly dependable concern for necessary automobile repairs back then.
On Tuesday afternoon, March 23, 1915, residents in the Berlin Mills section of this city were startled and frightened. They thought that a German submarine fleet had successfully come up the Androscoggin River and attacked, or that the Fourth of July had arrived ahead of its regular schedule.
An investigation brought out the fact that a quantity of dynamite, stored in a building in the middle of the river near the log hoisting engine, had exploded with a detonation that was heard from many miles around.
Considering the number of men at work in this immediate vicinity, the proximity of the houses of people living on upper Main Street and the constant traffic in this section, it was remarkable that no one was killed or even injured severely from the blast.
There was one man slightly hurt and that was Mr. Norman Johnson, who was working at the storehouse. The storehouse was completely wrecked and there were many windows that had to be replaced in the Norwegian Village. That must have been a huge explosion.
Finally, Berlin had a narrow escape from being the scene of sudden death by drowning on Monday afternoon, April 12, 1915. At about 5 p.m., Henri Albert, the 13-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Henri Albert of 319 Main Street, just above today's Episcopal Church, was playing on a boom, in the vicinity of the YMCA Bridge, when a log started from its position and struck the lad in the back.
The force threw this young teenager into the river, which at this point was very treacherous, especially during the annual long drives that took place back then. Mr. Arthur Larocque, an employee of the Burgess Company, was crossing the YMCA Bridge which went from Main Street to Community Street and vise versa. As he was crossing on the bridge, Larocque spotted the accident and immediately rushed to the rescue.
He ran down the embankment near the public library and jumped down on a ledge more than six feet high landing on a boom. Young Albert had already gone under once and was sinking for a second time when Mr. Larocque got hold of the lad.
Albert was taken from the water in an unconscious condition and brought to his home. Mr. Atwood of the YMCA had noticed the catastrophe and hastened to offer his services as an expert swimmer to assist in bringing the drowning boy ashore, but Mr. Larocque was successful before Atwood reached the scene and the young boy was eventually rescued and survived this ordeal.
It was amazing how many kids played along the river back then and got themselves in trouble trying to imitate the professional river men. This area is still very treacherous for anybody that would wander down the embankment here. Mr. Larocque was certainly a hero.
I will continue with the year 1915 in my next writing.
Last Updated on Thursday, 12 March 2015 11:53
Written by Kirstan Lukasak
The plan for our first week in March Western Caribbean cruise was a simple one. Barrie and I would fly to Houston, Texas, on Friday, the 27th of February, meet our son Mark and his wife Sarah there on Saturday, enjoy a day at the Johnson Space Center, and then the next day, they would drive back to their home in Fort Worth, and we would be
transferred from our hotel to our waiting cruise ship in the Port of Houston. Simple, right? Well, no.
Even before we left the ground at the Manchester-Boston Airport, there was a problem. Computer communication problems on our flight to Atlanta kept us on the runway while cockpit and Delta Airlines crews worked on the problem. One half hour later, the problem had been located and fixed. We would be able to get to Atlanta in time to make the connecting flight to Houston.
Arriving at our hotel in Houston, our plans quickly unraveled. The weather reports for Saturday in Fort Worth were not good. Snow, sleet, and icy road conditions were expected in the area. People there were being told to stay home, if at all possible.
Saturday morning's e-mail brought the confirmation from Fort Worth. Mark and Sarah would not be coming. They were unable to even get out of their own driveway.
Houston itself was no prize. Chill winds and a fine mist were not at all inviting. The Johnson Space Center would have to wait for another day. We stayed put.
Events were not going to get any better. The next morning's e-mail brought a message from Princess Cruises that our ship, the Emerald Princess, was fog-bound outside the Port of Houston, which was even more fog-bound, and was now closed to all shipping.
When it would reopen was uncertain. Finally, by two-thirty in the afternoon, our ship had been able to dock, discharge its passengers, and was ready for us to board. A little more than an hour later, we were on board the Emerald Princess. But there was yet more to come. The port had closed down again, shrouded in the dense fog that had returned. When our ship would be able to loose its moorings and set sail was anyone's guess. Well, at least we were safely on board and food would not be a problem.
Monday morning found us still tied to the Houston dock. It would be shortly before noon before our ship was given the all clear to cast off its lines and ease it way down the channel and to the open sea. Since we had been scheduled to sail the previous day, we were already well behind schedule for arrival to our first port of call - Cozumel, Mexico.
That there would have to be a change in itinerary was quite apparent.
That announcement soon came. Cozumel would now be our last port of call. We would spend another day at sea and sail to our second port of call - Costa Maya. From there, we would sail to Belize, which would now be our second port of call, and which would turn out to be our favorite, and finally on to Cozumel. Another day at sea, would bring us back to Houston.
That is where we are now, as I write this. We are at sea on our way to Houston. More on our ports of call in next week's column.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 March 2015 12:10
It has been painfully clear over the past few years that large overhead transmission lines pose serious issues for our state in terms of public acceptance, right of way acquisition, and negative impacts on nearby private property, businesses and scenic landscapes.
Massive public resistance to these and other large infrastructure projects is frequently cited as the reason we find ourselves facing significant energy challenges.
One way of solving this problem is to enable design and siting that address public concerns about these projects. It is in the public interest to do so, and we have a bill in the House that takes an important step in the right direction.
HB626 would establish four underground utility corridors along State owned transportation rights of way --- Interstates 89, 93, 95 and Route 101 between Manchester and I-95. Leasing fees are reserved to pay for work on these and other State highways built with federal funds. This bill invites energy developers to partner with the State, offering a process by which developers can contract with the State to use these corridors. Enabling public-private partnerships to build responsible energy infrastructure makes it far less likely that such projects will encounter significant public resistance. This expansion of the energy market is a business proposition that is good for New Hampshire.
Designated state utility corridors would place New Hampshire at the forefront of modern infrastructure construction and put out the welcome mat for new development. Our neighbors in Maine have already done this, enacting legislation that created a similar corridor in 2010. At present Maine has at least one applicant for its corridor, and numerous other projects are also on the books for other sites around the state. The statute has clearly not discouraged energy developers in Maine.
HB626 does not mandate that energy developers use designated corridors. Those who prefer to build overhead lines are free to do so as they choose; the permitting rules for them do not change. Those who prefer to partner with the State and work with modern, low-impact technology will find the possibilities have improved here in New Hampshire.
Burying high voltage, long distance electric transmission lines along roadsides is neither unrealistic nor unheard of. In fact, it is happening all around us. Underground electricity transmission developers are currently in various stages of project development in Maine, Vermont, New York and Quebec using roadside corridors. In Vermont, TDI, the developer of New England Clean Power Link, will pay an annual leasing fee for 40 years to use state-owned roadsides. Public objection to these projects has been next to nothing.
New Hampshire is missing out on this business.
We already have numerous buried utility lines here in NH that demonstrate its feasibility, such as the Portland Natural Gas Pipeline, and fiber optic cable alongside the northbound lane of Route 93 from the Mass border to Concord. The ECO Line, carrying methane from a landfill in Rochester to UNH in Durham is buried four feet deep alongside the Spaulding Turnpike.
It is time for those who claim this cannot be done to stand aside and let those who are willing to engineer and finance this type of development move us ahead. New Hampshire deserves a fully competitive energy sector, not one pinned in the past by vested interests insisting on business as usual. One wonders why an organization like the New Hampshire Business & Industry Association, which has loudly trumpeted energy Armageddon, would reject such a benign means of enabling more energy development here.
Indeed, one wonders why Eversource, the out-of-state owner of NH's largest utility, would mount fleets of lobbyists to crush a bill that only opens opportunity to developers. Are they afraid of the competition? Why should developers with underground know-how be denied this opportunity because Eversource and its partner, IBEW, make hollow claims that it can't be done? New Hampshire is not a PSNH/Eversource fiefdom.
Future energy transmission projects driven by Canadian aspirations for greater export (or in Maine delivering wind power to Boston) are slated for our state. The New England 2030 Power System Study indicates a "spaghetti map" network of planned new transmission lines, many of which criss-cross New Hampshire since we are located between this power supply and its ultimate consumers.
Do we really want to see more Northern Pass type projects in New Hampshire, and more protracted battles between transmission developers and New Hampshire communities? Why not make it efficient for energy developers to locate their underground projects in our state? Why not expand the energy market to foster this new type of installation? Why not enable private, for-profit businesses to build their underground projects here in New Hampshire?
Why ever not?
Nancy Marland lives in Sugar Hill and is a coordinator of Sugar Hill Tower Opponents, a community group that opposes Northern Pass.
Last Updated on Monday, 09 March 2015 12:23