The scenic view at Great American Ball Park.
I'm sure that most people would agree that this summer went particularly fast. In fact, it seemed like it barely got started with unseasonably cool temperatures through what are typically the 'dog days' of the summer. I'm not much for going to the pool, but I do enjoy the summer break to recharge the batteries for another school year. While this summer was somewhat brief in its duration, I did actually get to get away from the desk at work and enjoy some time away.
I haven't gotten to Cincinnati often though I've lived here in Indiana for close to 14 years at this point after spending my high school and college years in Pennsylvania. While I've been a Reds baseball fan my entire life, I'd only made it to Great American Ball Park once since it had opened. Luckily I got that opportunity once again as part of a 'Monday Funday' trip.
Getting out of town is always a nice respite from the daily grind and my girlfriend and I had decided to make an entire day out of the trip to Cincinnati. I'd heard from her and various other people over the years of the wonder that is an IKEA store. Well, I consider myself amongst the amazed as well after our afternoon visit. While I didn't bring a wallet stacked full enough to furniture shop there, I was pretty awestruck at the fact that the massive store has full size kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms, bedrooms, offices and the like built into the store. They also apparently want you to spend your entire day there as they offer both breakfast and dinner in their two sizable cafeterias. Not surprisingly, the Swedish company is quite excellent at providing Swedish meatballs amongst their many other dishes.
So, after lunch and window shopping during the afternoon, we ventured towards the ballpark. However, we hadn't gotten too far when we remembered that we had wanted to visit Jungle Jims, another sizable retail store. This time however, the giant featured edible wonders.
Jungle Jims is an international market that includes 200,000 square feet and amazingly, 150,000 products to choose from according to their website. I found that hard to belief when I read about it, but from the stories that several of my more culinary-inclined friends had told me, it was a must visit.
Count me as one of the converted now as well. As my waistline can attest, I do love food, not just eating, but cooking as well. So I was pretty impressed by the crazy selection that Jungle Jims offered. There were entire sections devoted to cheese alone. To heck with the Kraft singles. How about 15 different kinds of Swiss alone, a multitude of varieties from around the world. An entire aisle simply for barbeque sauce, another one for what seemed like 1,000 types of hot sauce. The seafood market reminded me of my trips to Inner Harbor in Maryland. I don't know what squid tubes are, but Jungle Jims had them. . . .and can keep them. For fans of microbrew beer, it's a must visit.
The aisles were separated by West Coast, Oregon, Colorado, Midwest, Ohio and East Coast as hundreds of small breweries were represented from each part of the United States. Samples of about 10 different brews were available for $0.25 so the price was certainly right. There were cooking schools offered throughout the week as well as cigar tastings, tours and special events for kids as well including live shows with animals and insects.
While both stops were great, the headliner for me was my second trip to see the Reds on their home turf. After a brief stop across the street at the Holy Grail bar, which features a wealth of team memorabilia and is a fun visit in itself, we headed to the game. I'd gotten lower level box seats along the first base line, which proved to be better than I'd even hoped for the price.
We settled in for the early innings as the Reds faced the Arizona Diamondbacks with Homer Bailey on the hill for the Redlegs. Devin Mesoraco mashed a first inning home run to put the Reds on top early, but the D-Backs later knotted the score. From there the marathon was on. The teams matched zeroes well into the evening in a tight affair. We finally decided to call it an evening with a long drive back as the teams were tied at 1-1 after 13 innings. The crazy cool temperatures finally won as it dipped into the mid-50's. While the Reds eventually lost a 2-1 decision in 15 innings, it was a great way to end the summer. Like I said, its always nice to get out of town.