The Ribbon Road, a.k.a. Sidewalk Highway


Pouring more than 2,400 miles of concrete turned out to be a pretty expensive project, especially back in the 1920’s.  So, the state of Oklahoma came up with a solution: a road that’s half as wide should cost half as much.  To save money as they paved parts of Route 66, they poured the concrete just 9 feet wide, creating just one hard-surfaced lane.  Hey, it’s not like that “automobile” thing was really going to catch on, and there would ever be two cars on the road at the same time!

Incredibly, two sections of Oklahoma’s “Sidewalk Highway” or “Ribbon Road” still exist, and are drivable.  The northern section is easy to find, just outside of Miami, Oklahoma.

The northern remnant of the Ribbon Road is easy to find.  From downtown Miami, continue south on Main Street.  Once you pass the Rte. 125 turnoff, the road narrows to one paved lane, with a wide gravel shoulder on either side.  Historic Route 66 signs will help you find this route (or you can stay on US 69, which served as Route 66 after 1937).

Route 66’s single paved lane takes you past farmland and just a few homes.  The road is concrete, with a thin (and sometimes missing) layer of asphalt on top.  Truth be told, the road would probably have been smoother, if they hadn’t added this extra layer of pavement, and just kept the original 1922 road surface exposed.

The road makes a couple of turns, but it’s easy to follow the old route (after all, there aren’t many other one-lane roads around).

The 9-foot-wide road ends at US 69, just north of Narcissa (it’s E 140 Road, in case you’re traveling 66 eastbound).  For westbound Route 66 travelers, turn south on US 69 and drive through Narcissa, then watch for the “NE Technology Center” — a nice, new vo-tech school that you can’t miss.  Turn right here, and within moments, the road narrows to one lane.  This is the southern section of the Ribbon Road.

The southern section of the Ribbon Road looks a lot like the northern section, and passes through a similar landscape.  However, this part of the Sidewalk Highway is smoother than the section near Miami.  While it may be easier to drive faster here, you’ll still want to go slow, to preserve the fragile, old road itself.

Westbound travelers: the southern section of the 9-foot-wide road ends at US 60/69, just east of Afton, and just west of US 59 and the old Buffalo Ranch roadside attraction.  Turn right and head on to Afton, unless you want to see the buffalo.  Eastbounders: the single-lane highway turns to the left onto S 520 Road.  If you hit the US 59 intersection, you’ve missed it. 

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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