The Serpent's Beard
Map & Directions Below
The Serpent's Beard curls around some of the most stunning curves and sweeps of the Ohio River Valley as it twists and winds through Meigs (where else?) and Gallia Counties for 116 miles and 2.75 hours of virtually deserted touring on 2 lane paved roads. There are some rougher (only slightly) beard "snarls" that I'll run through in a separate section (some chip & seal, some measure of grit or gravel on parts of the roads, narrower, more RR track crossings). For now - this route is suitable for all 2, 3- or 4 wheeled vehicles.
Launch from Lake Hope in eastern Vinton County, taking the top of the Serpent's Heart (SR 278 N, SR 56 E, SR 356 S) to just south of the tiny town of Mineral where you jump onto the Serpent's Tongue for a minute or ten (SR 681 E). Go through Albany (Albany Cafe Diner) and stay straight when SR 681 doglegs to the left. You're on SR 684 through Pageville and Harrisonville. Go straight across SR 143 (a mighty wonderful ride from tip - Ohio River - to tail - Hwy 50 near Albany) onto New Lima Road into Rutland (Fox's Pizza Den). You can see the influence the South had on the Ohio Valley in the architecture on some of these sprawling old farms.
Go forward in Rutland onto SR 124 to Hwy 7 (Marathon Gas) hang a right to follow the Ohio River. You're going to see the Gavin Power Plant in Chester, OH where the company bought the town from the residents rather than fight lawsuits related to chemical pollution and health problems. In Cheshire pull over at the park to view the river, or just make a right onto SR 554 and settle into some deep revery. You will typically see 2 cars and maybe a truck on the whole length of this beautiful road. Continue across SR 160 and through Bidwell until you meet SR 325 beside I-35 just outside of Rio Grande. Pit stop in Rio, or turn right onto SR 325 for more wide-open, deserted touring bliss.
When the Beard hits SR 124 further west than your last encounter, turn left and cruise through more farmland into Salem Center where SR 124 goes left, but you go right onto former coal mine land. Salem School Lot Road was built to access the enormous shuttered long-wall coal mine that it bisects, and although over 2,000 acres of the land over the mine was recently sold, it is still currently peaceful, deserted, and newly re-paved. Watch for grit on some of the sharper corners, though. If you turn left onto Mine Rd, then right into the mine area you can see where the left-overs of a former economic boom area have been removed. Careful, large herds of deer like to congregate here and they are not afraid of motors. Turn right onto Mine Rd 2 to re-access Salem School Lot Rd. At the stop sign turn left onto SR 143 and follow it across I-32 to Hwy 50. Turn left toward McArthur, take a right onto SR 278 N through scenic Zaleski and on back to Lake Hope.
Side-winder - That is one way to tour the Serpent's Beard, but like the guys from ZZ Top say, "Har, haw, haw" or "hair, hair, hair" depending on your hearing. There is more to a Beard than its outline. It has a soul. It has curls. It has snarls. So you can take yourself back to the Ohio River by just turning right on SR 143 instead of left to Hwy 50. Stop in Pomeroy. Eat a burger at the Court Street Grill. Walk the historic waterfront. Shop for antiques. Buy small things to fit on your bike. Then, when you come back come through Rutland stay on SR 124 when it turns left by Fox's, Then turn right a few curvy miles afterward onto Dexter Rd (CR 10) in Langsville. Cross the RR tracks a bunch of times. Twist & wind past rock bones. Sharp right in Dexter at the church and then immediate left after you cross the bridge to access Carpenter Hill Road (CR 10 still). You are in the middle of nowhere, Ohio. Carpenter Hill is chip & seal for a while, then gorgeous blacktop past farms and churches. In Carpenter at the bottom of the big hill turn left on SR 143 and you're back on your way to return to Lake Hope. Prost!
Have a glass of beer on the lodge patio. Watch the sunset. It was a good day for touring!
Turn by Turn Directions:
SR 278 N
Right on SR 56
Right on SR 356
Left on SR 681 through Albany
Forward onto SR 684
Forward across SR 143 onto New Lima Road
Forward in Rutland onto SR 124
Right on Route 7
Right in Cheshire onto 554
Continue past SR 160 and Bidwell to intersection with SR 325 & I-35
Right onto SR 325
Left onto SR 124
Right in Salem Center onto Salem School Lot Road
Left on SR 143 (or right to keep touring & visit Pomeroy)
Cross Hwy 32, left on Route 50
Right on SR 278 to Lake Hope
116 miles, 2.75 hours