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Publisher's Letter

The City That Isn’t Where It Is Anymore: What We Learned While Writing Our Shenandoah Valley Feature

In the course of preparing this summer’s special travel section, we discovered that part of the new reality sweeping world culture is that you don’t necessarily have to be where you are. This amazing new phenomenon was detected when one of our intrepid sales people made a few calls to see if she could get support for our feature on “The Valley Road Home.” It’s about the Shenandoah Valley, specifically those beautiful towns along the Interstate 81 corridor in Virginia.

This story has been researched, more or less, for the last 40 years. We first took that route home from a Northeast vacation in the mid-1970s. This was before I-81 was built and the road we traveled was U.S. 11, the historic Valley Turnpike, which goes back to the Civil War. It was a slow drive then, mostly two lanes, but a beautiful winding trip through hills of farms and cattle ranches. In the last 10 years or so, as I-95 became more hectic, especially in Virginia south of Washington, and I-81 speeded up the trip through the valley, we began taking that route on a regular basis, stopping off at the historic towns along the way. Five of those places figure in our story.

That includes Roanoke, the city that isn’t where it is anymore. That we discovered when a marketing person for the city emailed our sales person that “Roanoke is not part of the Shenandoah Valley anymore.” This despite the fact that any description of the valley says it begins at Harpers Ferry and ends at Roanoke, usually citing the Roanoke Valley as part of the larger valley. Well, apparently Roanoke has seceded in that great Southern tradition. We are advised that it prefers to market itself as “Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge.” And it therefore can’t advertise itself as part of the Shenandoah Valley. Well, it was too late to take Roanoke out of the story, and we apologize for making it sound like a fun place to visit.

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