Jungle Jim’s International Market

Whenever I’m traveling through the mid-west I try to stop at Jungle Jim’s. In the past, I’ve said Jungle Jim’s was the greatest supermarket in America, but up until this spring I had only visited the Eastgate location. This year I visited the original Fairfield location… and I was not disappointed. Jungle Jim’s — no mater which location you choose — is the greatest supermarket in America.

James O. Bonaminio (Jungle Jim) started his business as a humble produce stand in 1971 in Hamilton, OH. Jim opened the Fairfield location in 1975, expanded to 19K sq. ft. in 1982, and added the trademark Zoo animal pond in ’83. By 2001 a monorail was added and the store expanded to over 284,000 sq. ft. — that’s roughly 5 football fields of food, beverages, and fun (source).

Nascar - Jungle Jim's

The big difference between the original Fairfield and newer Eastgate location (est. 2012) is their layouts — the Fairfield location feels like it evolved over time, which it did, and Eastgate feels like it was planned out ahead of time, which it was. Fairfield has more twists, turns and bottlenecks, and the Eastgate location is more rectangular. The amazing selection of food and beverages are the same. Both have plenty of safari-themed fiberglass animal attractions, and pop-culture themed displays — Fairfield has a NASCAR hanging over the Foodie entrance, an animatronic singing bear named Elvis, and a small yacht featuring the cast of Gilligan’s Island, to name a few.

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While Jungle Jim’s has plenty of vehicles and animals to amuse kids and adults alike, it’s the rare foods and beverages that keeps me coming back. Isles and isles of food from around the world — particularly candy, maybe the best candy selection in the world. Hundred’s of types of hot sauce. Hundred’s of types of soda-pop. Hundred’s of types of beer. All these crazy brands you’ve never heard of before. Yes, they have normal food too. They even have rows of health food! Imagine the selection of a Whole Foods, plus the most popular brands, plus an unbelievable selection of novelty food & drinks that would otherwise take a lifetime to find — all in one convenient location.

It’s Disneyland for your mouth!

Jim the Wizard of low prices and finer foods:
Wizard of Food

How many supermarkets have a tribute to Gillian’s Island?
Jungle Jim's Gilligan's Island Boat

The Massive Hot Sauce display:
Jungle Jim's Firetruck Hotsauce display

Jungle Jim’s has a massive selection of candy from all around the world. These Gummi Snails from Germany, and sour lemon candies from Japan were amongst my favorites.

Gummi escargot #schneck #lecker #candy #escargot

Sour Lemon Candy from Jungle Jim's

Elvis

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Info: Jungle Jim’s website.
Location: 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, OH 45014

Middle Aged Man Hikes Above Ground Cave

fall My Hocking Hills story beings as many of my travel stories do: mapping periodical cicadas. I had heard that Hocking Hills park in Ohio was a hotspot for the rarest of the three 17 year cicada species (Magicicada septendecula), so I traveled there to check it out. The reports were true… the cicadas were there in abundance… but no one had told me about the cave.

I’m a sucker for a good cave. I see a sign for a cave and I’ll drive 100, no, make that 200 miles to see that cave. Case in point: Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky. Back in 2014 I was in Cincinnati, started heading home (east) for New Jersey, but the next thing you know I’m 208 miles south at a cave! Sure, I stopped at the Jim Beam distillery along the way, but I ended up at a cave.

While wandering through the Hocking Hills state park — clutching my video camera, listening for septendecula, trying not to stand out amongst the dozens of tourists milling about — I saw the sign: “Old Man Cave”. Suddenly the sounds of cicadas dissolved from my mind and all I could think was “cave”.

That’s the third paragraph than ends in cave. Get the point?

Surprisingly Old Man Cave is not a “traditional” below ground cave. It is an above ground cave, because it has no ceiling. Perhaps it had a ceiling at one time; perhaps it collapsed. Had you asked me, I would have guessed that it was actually a canyon. As you’ll see from my photos and video, it still looks like a cave — limestone rock sculpted by the erosion of water — but it also looks like a canyon.

To get to the cave you have to enter a tunnel (the most “traditional” cave-like part of the journey). At the mouth of the tunnel were two healthy-looking young men; before I could enter, one stopped me. “Are you sure you want to go into the cave? It’s a hard walk even for me.” He advised me to go through the tunnel, enjoy the view, and then turn around and go home. He wasn’t an employee of the park — just another tourist.

I had to pause, if just for a moment, and ask myself: “how decrepit is my appearance?” Yes, I know I look like Lucious Malfoy: clearly middle-aged, with bone-white hair. And certainly I could stand to lose a few pounds (more like 20). “How feeble and near death do I appear?”

I thanked the young man for his advice and concern, and entered the tunnel. Upon exiting, the view was amazing. It’s hard to capture the magnificence with a photograph. To the right there’s a massive limestone overhang, slick with moisture and stained with streaks of green alge; straight ahead the cave/canyon drops maybe a hundred feet to the cave floor. It’s spectacular. At that moment I thought, “I have to do this; I have to experience this, even if the young man is right and I will die tying.”

Old Man Cave, Hocking Hills

Old Man Cave, Hocking Hills

The Old Man Cave trail passes under the massive rock overhang, and then winds and twists along the side of the cave until you reach the bottom, at that point you can enjoy the view of the waterfall, and then you hike back up the other side and continue around until you reach the start.

Old Man Cave, Hocking Hills

The hike down is long, and the hardest part is maintaining your balance and not falling to your death while taking a photo. Core strength is important. The hike up requires leg strength and stamina, but it isn’t all that bad. There were a few septuagenarians and little kids hacking it — it was fine. No worries.

Video from my hike:

After the Old Man Cave, I took a break… grabbed some water… made a video of some bugs…

And then walked across this funky looking bridge…

Hocking Hills

And then hiked up a hill into the woods and recorded some cicada song.

Along the path back to my car there were a group of young dudes debating on wether they should hop a fence and go swimming in the stream below. They were having a serious debate — you might think they were getting up the nerve to talk to some young women — no, just going for an illegal swim.

Crossing back across the bridge I could hear them splash into the river below. I thought “good, they’re living life, and taking chances as they should”.

More info:

Jungle Jim’s: the Greatest Supermarket in America

Jungle Jim’s (4450 Eastgate South Drive, Cincinnati, OH) is the greatest supermarket in America.

Jungle Jim in Wizard Mode.

Imagine waking up one day and thinking: “you know what, I’m not satisfied with the boring local supermarket.” “I want a market that has the most diverse selection of foods & beverages imaginable, including exotic foods from faraway lands, and I want the experience to be fun for the entire family.” I imagine that is what Jungle Jim thought when he got the idea for the Jungle Jim’s supermarkets in Fairfield and Cincinnati, Ohio.

Now imagine a food store as huge as a Walmart, featuring every type of food you can imagine (and some you cannot), decorated with gorillas, rhinos, real airplanes, 50′ dragons and 1960’s cultural icons. Imagine a Whole Foods + a Wegmans + a Trader Joe’s + a liquor store + a cigar store + Disney Land, and that is Jungle Jim’s.

Don’t believe me? Check these stats:

  • Five isles of hot sauce, with a real fire engine parked amongst it to get your attention.
  • Two or three long isles of soda pop (they call it pop in Ohio).
  • A candy section as big as a house.
  • Isles and isles of craft, international, and big-brand beers, and wines.
  • Five or six isles of International foods.
  • Need candy shaped like a toilet from Japan? They got it.
  • Need Jelly Babies from England? They got it.
  • Need Licorice Cats from Holland because that is the old thing that cures your gout? They got it.
  • Need some “century eggs” or bird nest soup from China? They got it.
  • Need some lollipops with crickets or ants inside them? They got those.
  • Need a hookah pipe? They got those too.

Whenever I’m in the Cincinnati area I fill my entire car trunk with unusual foods, snacks and pop from Jungle Jim’s. It makes the 10 hour trip all the more worth while.

Foodie Entrance:
Foodie Entrance. Jungle Jim's, Ohio

Restrooms:
Jungle Johns. Jungle Jim's, Ohio

Why, yes, they do have 5 isles of hot sauce:
Hot sauce. Jungle Jim's, Ohio

A random display devoted to 1960’s musicians? Sure, why not:
1970s themed trailer. Jungle Jim's, Ohio

Coke R2-D2:
Coke R2D2 in Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati OH

The World’s Largest Horseshoe Crab

The world’s largest Horseshoe Crab is in Blanchester, Ohio. I know what you are thinking: 1) what is a Horseshoe Crab, and 2) why is there a crab in Ohio, which is no where near an ocean?? Horseshoe crabs are not true crabs, but they do live in the sea, and they are arthropods, and they have blue blood, and they look amazing… and the world’s largest one is a giant sculpture.

You’ll find it at the Freedom Worship Baptist Church in Blanchester, Ohio. Read more about it on Roadside America.

World's largest horseshoe crab in Blanchester, OH

World's largest horseshoe crab in Blanchester, OH

Last time visited: 2008.