Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

August 18, 2013

Southern slaw collides with northern cheese during scenic I-77 drive

By SAMANTHA PERRY
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— Blue skies began peeking through the clouds as we rolled through Raleigh County. We had been on the road an hour and still had nearly four to go.

The weekend trip to Wheeling with the husband for the West Virginia Press Association Banquet was my first trip to the northern panhandle in a couple of decades. When planning the getaway, I realized I had not traveled to that part of the state since I was a teen.

Plotting the trip on the Internet, it was interesting to note that the shortest distance between two cities in West Virginia took us through Ohio.

Despite the long drive, it was fun to see many of West Virginia’s sites. Usually when I am on the turnpike I am driving. As a passenger, it allowed me to take my eyes off the road and marvel at the scenic beauty of the Mountain State. Of course, as with any trip, all was not perfect.

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Right before entering Ohio we exited Interstate 77 to grab a quick bite via a drive-through. It was the worst fast-food restaurant ever.

The service was terrible and slow. After waiting in line for nearly 20 minutes, we were finally handed our bags. Then, while driving away, we discovered the entire order was wrong. Fortunately, the fries were salvageable, but I was surprised when I found two small containers of cheese in the bottom of the bag instead of the traditional ketchup packets.

I realized we were north of the slaw line and were seeing the differences in regional fare. I mulled this as the husband and I ate our fries, then shared the one napkin the restaurant had graciously provided.

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The slaw line is a boundary across West Virginia that runs from Sistersville to Clarksburg to Elkins, then on in to Virginia. South of the slaw line, a hot dog with everything includes chili, mustard, onions and coleslaw. According to the West Virginia Hot Dog Blog, “This culture exists virtually everywhere throughout the southern two-thirds of the state except for Huntington (which seems to think that slaw is optional) and is completely perverted in the Northern Panhandle where slaw can’t be found in any hot dog joint known to us.”

The writer of the blog speculated that there must be a specific point along Interstate 79 “where the slaw culture is lost into the unfortunate void of a no-slaw zone.”

After much research, the writer determined that mile marker 111 is the point at which the slaw line crosses Interstate 79.

A digitally enhanced “photo” on the site shows a mythical slaw line historical marker that reads: “Near this spot lies a culinary and cultural boundary known as the ‘slaw line’ where it crosses Interstate 79. South of this point West Virginians are smart enough to order coleslaw on their hot dogs, while north of this line people have no idea what real West Virginia hot dogs are.”

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The slaw line is very similar to the Baptist line, according to an article posted on theelectoralmap.com that posed the question, “Where does the South begin?”

According to the website, the Baptist line “roughly follows the Ohio River, but it cuts across West Virginia, where the southern tier is Baptist and speaks with a drawl and the northern tier is ethnic and cheers for the Steelers. Maryland was a colony founded by Catholics, while Virginia is mostly Baptist with a strong Methodist following in the hills.”

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Traveling north on Interstate 77 also gave me an opportunity to notice how the road appears to be just as well-maintained — and in some places, better — than the state’s southern portion of the interstate, which requires toll revenue to keep up.

Ohio, too, seems to have no problem maintaining Interstate 77 without toll booths, although I will note that the Mountain State does seem to do a better job with roadside mowing than our neighbor to the north.

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The highlight of our trip was the WVPA banquet, an event during which many Daily Telegraph staffers were recognized for their work the previous year.

The honors included a first-place award to our sports staff — Brian Woodson, Tom Bone and Bob Redd — for best sports pages, and another first-place for Brian for best sports feature story. Tom also won a first-place award for best cartoon or graphic. Rounding out the first-place awards was one shared by me and Charles Owens for best editorial page.

Others honors included a second-place award to Eric DiNovo for best news photography, a second-place award to Jamie Parsell for best lifestyles pages and a second-place award to Kate Coil for best coverage of legal issues and the courts. The Telegraph also won third-place awards for best single issues and best newspaper design. Much of the credit for these awards go to our great copy editing team including Andy Patton, Amy Persinger and Jackie Puglisi.

The Telegraph’s editorial staff is known for going above and beyond every day in an effort to bring the news to the people of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. It was gratifying to see this hard work and dedication recognized.

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her @BDTPerry.