Magical Things Do Happen in Old Town Alexandria

I’m not one for superstition or Disney make-believe, but I’m convinced that magical things do happen in Old Town Alexandria.

I’ve lived in the Alexandria area ever since I moved here nearly two and a half years ago. The place grows on you–making it impossible for one not to love it. Its charm, its ambiance, and its rich colonial history whisk you away from the heyday of the present by putting you back in the past. In 2013, Amazon ranked it the most well-read city in all of the U.S. Additionally, Alexandria is the fifth most romantic city in the U.S. (Also, for those of us who are conservative, Alexandria is the most liberal city in all of Virginia. *Shrugs*) However, there’s a lot to love about ALX.

Yesterday, my friends and I went to historic Gadsby’s Tavern for dinner. Many people recommended I try it, so we decided to go there.

This establishment’s claim to fame is that President George Washington frequently visited and was a patron. The tavern also held events in his honor. Other notable guests included John Adams, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and even the Marquis de La Fayette. (Check out the menu here.)

And an authentic Alexandria experience wouldn’t be complete without several random encounters with transplants. My girlfriends and I chatted it up with some guys who work for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (especially the Russian guy who had favorable views of conservatism – you know who you are! ) and some journalists from Kurdistan. So random!

We topped off the evening lighting up some sparklers by the water. Below is a picture of me doing just that:

To my friends and fellow D.C. area transplants: make a trip to Old Town. 9The bar scene is FAR better than Arlington’s bar scene, trust me.) Great food, great entertainment options, great location. Hope you make it down there!

 

Virginia Wine, Oh-So Fine

“…wine [is] a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”
Benjamin Franklin, The Posthumous and Other Writings of Benjamin Franklin … Volume 1 of 2

When I’m not immersed in politics, I enjoy what my adopted home state has to offer.

Apart from being a gateway to Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia has a lot of great places to visit and things to do. (Yes, there’s a world beyond the concrete jungle.) That’s why I decided to venture out to Wine Country this past weekend.

One of the Commonwealth’s best hidden secrets is Wine Country. (Disclaimer: I’m not a wine expert; I’m just a connoisseur. All subsequent thoughts are purely subjective.) This was my third time visiting vineyards in Virginia. Since moving to Virginia in June 2012, I’ve been to Rappahannock Cellars near Front Royal (May 2013), Doukenie Winery, and Hillsborough Vineyards (August 2013). All these vineyards were unique and had individual appeal. I wouldn’t recommend going to Front Royal to sample wine–I found Rappahannock’s wine tasting option to be pricey and its premises to be too small. (Good wine, but certainly not worth the drive or price.) The other locations, both based in Purcellville, were reasonable and had better amenities for guests.

This past weekend, I visited Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg, Virginia–an hour drive from Alexandria and Arlington. Middleburg and the surrounding areas comprise Virginia Wine Country. (I hear that Charlottesville is also a great spot. I hope to sample wine there in the future!)

For $10, you get to sample about 10-11 varieties of red and white wine. (One wine–called Schitz and Giggels–is chuckle-worthy.) Also, this winery popularized the Norton grape:

Of particular interest to Chrysalis Vineyards is the native American grape, Norton (sometimes also known as Cynthiana). Recognized among North American varieties for its unique ability to produce premium quality red wines, the Norton was internationally recognized in the 1800’s as the source of distinctively robust reds with overtones of berry and pitted fruits. Today the Norton is enjoying a resurgence of popularity, and a key element of the Chrysalis Vineyards program is to restore this grape to its position of eminence among fine wines. Presently we have the largest planting of Norton in the world.

Overall, I was impressed with this vineyard and its amenities (which included picnic areas and corn hole.)  Below are pictures:

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Complimentary wine glass you keep after wine tasting

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Grapes!

You might be thinking, “Virginia has wine?” Growing up in California, I was in disbelief to hear that Virginia had good wine. However, this August 2013 article in Forbes put things into perspective and made a convincing case in dubbing Virginia the “East Coast Napa Valley”:

Over the past 30 years winemakers have steadily notched improvements. Virginia currently ranks fifth in the number of wineries in the nation and is also the nation’s fifth largest wine grape producer. As of 2012, the Virginia wine industry employs more than 4,700 individuals and contributes almost $750 million to the Virginia economy annually. More importantly, Virginia wines are surprising critics, winning awards and fans across the globe. World-renowned U.K. based wine critic Steven Spurrier characterized Virginia as a “national contender, producing wines of bright fresh character that call for a second glass.” In blind tastings the wines consistently beat out candidates from other parts of the globe (read about the Breakfast of Champions tasting here). Virginia has momentum, but concerns over grape supply, distribution and growth demands will keep things interesting. Yet, it’s a safe bet that the combination of strategic vision from the Cases and local winemaking zeal will keep the energy headed in the right direction—straight for the tipping point.

If you ever make it out to Virginia and want something fun to do, I recommend checking out the wine scene in Northern Virginia.

Check out Virginia is for Lovers and VirginiaWine.org to learn more about the Commonwealth’s wine selection!

Angling Right: Fishing in Occoquan Reservoir

My dad and I ventured to Occoquan Reservoir for the first time yesterday morning.

Below is a picture I captured at Lake Ridge Marina prior to fishing.

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Occoquan Reservoir is a 2,100-acre body of water that forms at the border of Fairfax County and Prince William County. It’s about a 25 minute drive from D.C. without traffic. This place is known for largemouth bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, crappie, northern pike, bluegill, and perch. Moreover, it’s been dubbed one of the best places to go bass fishing in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Here’s another shot of the mighty Occoquan.

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Compared to other fishing spots I’ve been to, Occoquan was more picturesque and tranquil. There were plenty of opportunities to see and hear wildlife. Blue herons (pictured below) are quite common at Occoquan Reservoir.

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My dad and I fished for about four hours. In the process, we caught nine crappie/bluegill fish collectively. (Pictured below.) Although we didn’t catch any largemouth bass and lamented over a lost catfish, we weren’t disappointed with Occoquan Reservoir. In fact, I enjoyed the frequency of bites my rod had. It’s a good indication that this place is replete with fish. (Arriving early morning is recommended for catching big game fish.)

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Before you decide to go fishing at Occoquan Reservoir, note several things:

1) Always have your Virginia Freshwater Fishing license on you. Yesterday, the local Virginia Department Game and Inland Fisheries warden made his rounds at Occoquan Reservoir to ensure all anglers were licensed. They will check up on you. Don’t forget to have it with you!

2) Rent a boat. It’s worth the $39.

3) Note limits on fish you can catch and keep.

Largemouth Bass

The daily bag limit for bass is five per day. There is no minimum size limit.

Bluegill

Bluegill (bream) and other sunfish may be harvested without size restriction. Anglers are limited to 50 per day in aggregate (combined).

Crappie

Black and white crappie may be harvested without size restriction from Occoquan. The daily limit is 25 per day in aggregate.

Catfish (Channel and Flathead)

There is no minimum size limit for catfish, but anglers are limited to 20 fish per day of each species.

Northern Pike

The minimum size limit for northern pike in Occoquan Reservoir is 20 inches and anglers are limited to 2 fish per day.

4) Don’t bring alcohol on your boat. (It’s a no-no.)  Instead, have water and light snacks.

 

I foresee myself coming here again in the future. Fellow Virginia residents should make the trip to Occoquan Reservoir if they are looking for good fishing, opportunities to kayak/paddleboard, and nature.  Undoubtedly, this is a great escape from the concrete jungle.

I’ll be taking a brief hiatus from fishing for a few weeks, so expect my next “Angling Right” post in early or mid-August.  Happy fishing!

Golden State No Longer: A Disaffected Californian’s Thoughts on Escaping from America’s Greece

I recently trekked back to California to visit my family and enjoy some downtime after two months in the District.  I certainly needed some R&R to recharge and relax. (The political arena is a hectic albeit wonderful sphere to be immersed in. I’ve learned that any getaway you get shouldn’t be taken for granted.)  I had the chance to see some friends, visit my extended family, and finally went to  the Ronald Reagan President Library in Simi Valley, CA. It was a much-needed trip!

Now, I’m back in Northern Virginia and ready to resume my job.  I’ve got wonderful Field Representatives working with me, and have connected with many eager and bright students excited to shake things up on their campuses. I’ll be traveling up North soon and will be sure to chronicle each trip I make (when time permitted).

With this recent trip back home, it dawned upon me that I will not be back to CA for a very long time. While I’ll miss my home state, I have no regrets moving to the DC-metro area. Yes, it’s muddled with corruption – but it’s full of life and culture unseen on the West Coast. I will always be a proud yet disaffected Californian, and certainly one for the right reasons. Some will accuse me of betraying my roots for fleeing the state. (Mind you, there are no jobs for young people – or any Californian – given the dismal economic and moral state it is in.) I seized an opportunity to work for a conservative nonprofit – Leadership Institute – and took it.

As a California refugee taking shelter in the Commonwealth, I have some interesting observations about my home state now that I no longer live there. Here are the reasons why I’m happy I left:

- Outstanding, high state government debt: As of August 28, 2012, California’s debt rests at $617 billion – the highest total state debt in the entire country according to State Budget Solutions. Need I say more?

-Democrat-controlled state legislature: Both the State Senate and Assembly are controlled by Democrats who  have ushered in radical and arguably anti-American legislation. For example, legislation includes the multiple parents bill, gay history in K-12, abortion carried out by mid-wives/nurses,  DREAM Act, bans on open carry of handguns, and more.

- Endless call for more taxes: Since the return of Moonbeam (Jerry Brown) as Governor, there are more calls for taxing wealthy individuals in the Golden State. Brown and his allies are pushing Prop. 30 on the November ballot, which would “increase California’s sales tax by one-quarter of a cent for four years. It calls for an increase in state income tax on taxpayers who earn more than $250,000 a year for the next seven years,” according to CBS L.A. AEI president Arthur C. Brooks writes in “The Road to Freedom” that when presenting the moral case for free enterprise, it is important reduce spending, not add more taxes, when solving budget problems.

-Welfare state: Yahoo!  reported in December 2011 that California, the largest welfare state in the U.S., “has one-eighth of the nation’s population but one-third of all welfare recipients.”

-Too much spent on education coupled with corrupt teachers unions: Total expenditures (plus state bonds) for education in Fiscal Year 2012-2013, including K-12 and higher education, totaled 35.7 percent of California’s state budget,  or $39,575,109 for K-12 and $10,050,905 for higher education as of May 2012. Tuition hikes plague the University of California and California State University systems, and administrators continue to receive high salaries. (As someone who recently graduated from a UC school, I see the problem beset in education, much like the state budget, in refusal to gut waste and deny tenure/pensions to professors undeserving of it.) Another problem plaguing education in California is corruption in the California Teachers Association and similar teachers unions, whose bosses and members are too concerned about their salaries and benefits – not the welfare of their students. (California is in great need of school choice legislation. It would diminish teachers unions and dramatically improve education there.) When a sex scandal hit LAUSD last year (think worst school district in the nation), the teachers unions – in true fashion –  refused to address the issue and supported the defeat of a bill that would have tackled it, according to CNN:

While senators overwhelmingly voted in support of Senate Bill 1530, it was met with strong opposition from the powerful California Teachers Association.

The teachers’ union says that Padilla’s bill would have eliminated essential legal protections for teachers and that it believes the current system is an appropriate process.

Additionally, the CTA protects bad teachers thanks to tenure. It is also a big political player in Sacramento.

(There’s a lot to discuss regarding education in California, so I’ll detail it in a future post.)

-Illegal immigration: Illegal immigration has proven to be burdensome to the Golden State. Earlier this year, the state legislature passed the California DREAM Act – AB 130 (private scholarships)and AB 131 (public scholarships). This gave children of illegal immigrants and young illegal immigrants access to tuition regardless of their citizenship. Another crippling move that has emboldened illegal immigration is the DMV’s plan to issue drivers licenses to approximately 400,000 young illegals. Talk about oy vey…

There are many problems facing California – too many to list in a single blog post. It pains me to see my home state falter and become like Greece. I’ll even go so far as to call it a state riddled by Marxist and La Raza interests. Unfortunately, the Golden State must collapse and build anew. Otherwise, I’ll maintain that it is a lost cause.

Although I rag on California often, I will admit this: I’m glad I spent my formative years living there. I learned right from wrong, learned who to trust/who not to trust, enjoyed the beaches and nice weather, got my political start, was surrounded by family, and got to see leftist abuses at work.

“You can take the girl out of California, but you can never take the California out of the girl.”