Friday, October 18, 2013

Road tripping from Cincinnati to Niagara Falls

October 11-13, 2013
Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio
Dry Camping in Parking Lots

We took off from our friends’ home in Newton, Illinois following two other couples in their Phaeton motorhomes on a three hour trek to Jungle Jim’s in Cincinnati.  Roger, the safari leader, had heard that Jungle Jim’s International Market was an interesting place to visit—especially for us foodies, so we decided to give it a whirl as it wasn't much of detour (for us) from our planned route to Niagara Falls. Roger called ahead to see if they allowed overnight RV parking and they said it was fine as long as we found a place that was out of the way.

It turned out easy to find a place for all three motorhomes. In fact, we had several choices but this one worked quite nicely. We had plenty of room to put out all four slides and keep our towed vehicles hooked up.

Jungle Jim’s is advertised as “more than a grocery store, it’s a destination. . . and an experience you won’t forget!”  With more than 6 acres of store space, it is billed as the largest market in the country. Another way to describe it is the amusement park of grocery stores as it supposedly has a monorail and other rides but they were not working or perhaps never completed—couldn't tell. The store has been featured on the History Channel, Good Morning America, The Food Channel, NPR Radio, and The Travel Channel, but Vic and I had never heard of it before.

The place was pretty incredible in terms of carrying every food and drink one could imagine. As a major foodie myself, it was on the overwhelming side as I did not have a specific shopping list of hard to find items and was therefore tempted by way too much.  On our arrival, after grabbing a bite to eat at a Wings place, the six of us spent two to three hours mostly doing what Mike calls gawking at the amazing array of offerings.  My strategy was mostly to look on the first pass through the store, then make a second round for my actual purchases. 

Before starting this adventure, I needed to use the restroom which the tour guide at the front of the store said were a must to see as they won several awards.  Ha-ha.

I am happy to note that these deluxe port-a-potties were just fake entrances to very nice commercial looking bathrooms.

The bathrooms were located right next to the beer and wine tasting section.  How convenient. We all bellied up to the bar for some tastes of their featured discount wine which was a Pinot Noir and not very good.  (We are Oregon Pinot snobs.)

mike and bj at jjs

It also happened to be Friday evening pint night in the wine and beer section.  I think the deal was $2.00 pints and you got to keep the glass. It definitely drew a crowd and seemed a little odd to see people milling around this whole section of the store with pints in their hands. I even saw one guy with his i-Pad propped up on a case of wine just hanging out for the evening. This special beer deal is probably is a bit hit with the store in terms of upping their sales as it’s much easier to be a spendthrift after a few beers.

Here is a sampling of some of the more unusual items one can find at Jungle Jim’s.

The displays for specialty areas were pretty impressive too.  Check out the choices available for honey, butter, and hot sauce.

They even have their own hatchery with live trout, tilapia, perch, and blue gill for sale in the seafood department—something I have never seen before.I prefer to eat wild fish, so this was not something that appealed to me.  (Sorry for the blurry photo.)

I ended up buying things that were a little hard to find other places, but nothing too exotic: cambozola cheese, a favorite Argentinian wine, freshly steamed shrimp, cranberry walnut bleu cheese bread, aged balsamic, tarragon mustard, broccolini, wild mushroom linguini, and saffron pasta sauce.

The one thing I forgot to look for which I regret is Amarena cherries from Italy—amazing on ice cream, in panna cotta, or as a cocktail garnish. (No maraschino cherries for this girl.)

After our collective shopping splurges, we gathered together for appetizers and vino engaging in conversation about favorite trips, parks, and of course our views on the government closures and upcoming debt ceiling debacle.

I normally do not sleep well in parking lots, but I guess I felt safety in numbers as I didn't hear a thing all night—even the train that others heard tooting its whistle and rumbling by loudly every hour throughout the night.

In the morning, we had a relaxing couple hours drinking coffee and indulging in a few breakfast treats from our shopping excursion before heading out our separate ways. (BJ, Mike, and I also did one more round of shopping, just in case we missed something.)

Goodbyes held right in the parking lot were a little easier as the four of them, like us, are all headed to Florida within a month.  Meanwhile, our next destination was about a four-hour drive to Canton, Ohio with the sole purpose of Vic getting a chance to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

Campgrounds in Canton are few and far between, so I came up with the idea of calling the Hall of Fame and asking if we could park there overnight. Happily, they said yes.  This plan would have been perfect except we arrived after they closed their gates.  Our quick remedy was to find the closest Wal-Mart. I guess I am becoming more resigned to these options, so we made it work.

In the morning we drove to the Hall of Fame where I sat in the coach and watched a very old movie (1941!)  on TMC called  Lydia with Merle Oberon and Joseph Cotton. I like college football and some pro-football, but I knew I wouldn't have enough background knowledge to fully appreciate the museum.  I sent Vic with the camera to take a few shots.

football hall of fame

Vic’s overall commentary was that the visit to see the Pro Football Hall of Fame was a worthwhile stop. He has been to the baseball and basketball halls of fame; seeing the football one completed his interest in these three major sports halls of fame. Vic officiated high school football for thirty years so it is a game he knows well! He admits he wished he had given more thought to pursuing a career as a football official. His experience is sure handy when our friends and I are trying to figure out the penalty calls. 

From here, we travel to Niagara Falls, about 250 miles. Niagara was a destination for us in October two years ago, but they had an early cold weather snap that had us change our minds as a chance of snow was included in the forecast. Neither of us has seen the Falls so it is a classic first much like Yellowstone was for me this year.  We are steadily checking off the obvious bucket list destinations which is exciting as that brings the offbeat ones, usually my favorites,  higher up the list. Truthfully,  my all-time favorites so far have been places or events that never even made the list as I had never even heard of them before. All the new discoveries that lie ahead are sure part of the fun.

Mr. Rico is ready to roll. . . .


  1. Well, I have never heard of Jungle Jim's either. Very interesting.

    We crossed Niagara Falls off our list year before last. What a treat! Can't wait to see your pictures. Will you be going into Canada? There is so much to do there. If you do and have time, Niagara By the Sea is a beautiful old town...I think you would like it! One of those jewels we happened to find that was not on our agenda. enjoy!

  2. First of all....we are so happy you enjoyed Jungle Jim’s. It is definitely a destination for anyone who enjoys fun, adventure and the unusual.

    Secondly, welcome to Canton. It is our hometown. We are very proud of the HOF. The director graduated one year ahead of Marsha. He is an awesome guy. If we were in Ohio you could have mooch docked at our house. should have just walked down the street under the bridge and took a walk in the park. It is so lovely there. Just about two miles down the road is McKinley's Monument. The area is really nice. So sorry we didn't know ahead of time or we would have given you a heads up on it.

    Enjoy the Falls. It is awesome!

    1. Canton would have been a much more welcoming stop with you there!

  3. Just goes to show how out of it I am, I've never heard of Jungle Jim's either. Glad you found some things there that you couldn't do without. Going with the flow looks like a lot of fun. Hope Niagara doesn't back out on you again with changing weather. It's going down into the 30's at night here next week much further south. I am NOT looking forward to it. Need to get moving myself. Safe travels!

    1. We lucked out with unseasonably warm weather in Niagara. Thank goodness as we are feeling ready to move south.

  4. The football hall of fame has long been on my "places to see list".and now so is Jungle Jim's!

  5. Jungle Jim's sounds interesting except that is in Ohio a state I may never venture through in the RV... but you never can tell... enjoy the falls...

  6. You said you're an Oregon wine snob and yet you bought an Argentinian wine? How can you look yourself in the mirror? ;c)

    1. Ha-ha. Just checking to see if anyone reads this thing. I did say Oregon Pinot snob though. I drink other types of wine. I don't think Argentina has Pinot, but I may be wrong.

  7. Jungle Jim's sounds like my kind of place! I need to visit next time we go through the area. However, I don't need to see the pig head or chicken feet!

    Glad to see you had a great time with your friends. Good to know you will see each other in FL.

    Too bad Paul and Marsha weren't home. They have a nice spot in their backyard to camp!! Good Vic got to cross off the Football of Fame! We didn't go through but did go all around the outside and the stadium.

    Enjoy the Falls. Can't wait for pictures!

    1. Sorry about the graphic photos. I should have included a warning before the shots. . . .

      We would have loved to meet Marsha and Paul at their home, but knew we would be there after their departure. You were the lucky ones.


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