Tying a bow around the Ribbon Road: This original stretch of Route 66 is getting new attention approaching its first century

Great State

OTTAWA COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) –From up here, this stretch of gravel and old pavement between Miami and Afton, Okla., looks like any other county road.

But look a little closer and you’ll find a thin stretch of Topeka Asphalt, now nearly a century old, that ties a bow on an interesting historical legacy.

“The word is out,” says Russell Earls as he drives on a piece of the ‘Ribbon Road’, “that this is the only section of Ribbon Road left in the nation.”

Earls inherited this stretch of county road as District 3 Commissioner in Ottawa County.

But the ‘Ribbon Road’ stretches back to 1922 when this one-lane highway opened for traffic.

Earls claims, “It’s unique because Oklahoma didn’t have the money at the time it was being developed to put in the full width through this area right here.”

It started as a section of the Ozark Trail network first, then added to the Route 66 map for better than a decade.

“It’s hard to imagine a road nine foot wide that’s part of a federal highway,” he marvels, “but that’s what this is.”

Other names for the 15-mile section included the ‘Sidewalk Highway’ or just the ‘Lap Road’.

Russell explains, “Because if you met somebody, everybody just scooted over and lapped one another.”

As the only piece of one-lane highway left of the Mother Road, Earls sees people from all over the world make the turn off Oklahoma Highway 59 to drive it.

“If you stay out here in the summer, it’s constant,” he says.

The surface held up to abuse too, a century’s worth of highway traffic, tractors and large farm trucks.

Over the past few years, Earls and a growing number of other Ottawa County citizens have begun to recognize the value of this rare gift.

“It is unique and I’m proud of it,” he says.

Plans are afoot to either build another road for local traffic or widen it to somehow save what’s left of the original nine-foot section.

Meanwhile, the Ribbon Road, though frayed a bit around the edges, hangs on for the last part of his first century, and maybe a little bit more.

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