The records office used to be in a tiny basement room in the county courthouse building at First Avenue and Jefferson. So if you needed, say, a copy of your divorce file, you had to circle the block a few times for an open parking space, then find the basement office, then brave the gridlock of lawyers, paralegals and others in the small room just to get to the counter to request a file.

My, how things have changed. A couple years ago, the records office moved to spacious quarters in the bottom of a parking garage at Sixth Avenue and Jackson. Now it's no problem finding an empty parking space, and the office itself is thoughtfully designed and laid out to accommodate people who may need to be there a while and need a place to spread out some paperwork. There are more than two dozen desks and several large round tables scattered throughout the room, so privacy is not an issue. A nice touch is the kid-size tables for those patrons who have to bring small children with them. There are numerous computer terminals for looking up case numbers. Rows of couches fill the room so waiting is comfortable (even though the wait seems shorter these days and the counter clerks more plentiful). Magazine racks full of recent copies of a range of publications stand on one wall. Our favorite element: clean public rest rooms at the back of the main room. Now that's public service.

From its retro angular roof to its neon lights, Christown Lanes looks like a throwback to bowling's 1950s heyday. But once inside, the 48 shining synthetic lanes designed to enhance the "hook and spin" bowler's game boldly proclaim that Christown is still at the forefront of the Valley's bowling renaissance.

The ultra-clean alley sports new carpet, spotless rest rooms and a snack bar. Even better: non-smoking lanes. But there is also plenty of room for getting rowdy at the pool tables in The Legends nightclub featuring karaoke on Friday nights.

The lanes host regional Professional Bowlers Association tournaments and the popular Strike Force Tour, and have leagues for kids to seniors. It's rock 'n' roll time on Friday and Saturday at 10:30 p.m. when black lights and strobes enshroud the lanes for Extreme Bowling ($14 for two and a half hours, including shoes). Reservations are recommended.

The friendly staff is always ready to help, including providing bargain-priced personal lessons. Ask for desk attendant Jeremy McElliot, who has a half-dozen perfect 300 games to his credit.

There are not many things more annoying than being hit on at a shooting range, or being offered help shooting "that cute little gun." This is why we love the Ben Avery Shooting Facility's Annie Oakley Sure Shots program, and the Thursday "ladies' night." Created to provide a safe atmosphere for women to learn about and practice shooting firearms, the group was founded to provide instruction and mentoring for women, by women. Thursday night is always free for women. The facility, run by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, has a highly trained staff, safety officers, ear and eye protection, free ammunition, and a variety of firearms in a range of calibers. It even has complimentary gun locks. Membership in the club is also free. No knowledge or possession of firearms is necessary, and you can progress at whatever pace is most comfortable for you. Whether you're an experienced shooter or have never held a gun in your life, this is the place to go if you want to learn more, or just practice in a testosterone-light zone.

The Penske Racing Team has been awarded the most wins in the history of racing. So what do you do when you've done everything? Build an 8,000-square-foot museum, of course.

At Penske Racing Museum, diehard fans can experience some action in two full-size simulators, on a custom-designed racetrack, or on the off-road course. Then check out the 16 championship winning cars on display, including the 1984 Indy winner, the Pennzoil No. 6 car. Peruse the plethora of memorabilia or view the video wall.

The Penske Racing Museum had the rabid race fan in mind, and it shows at this utopia for speed machines.

Mill Avenue is the heart of downtown Tempe, and there's no better place to see the pulse of living than this urban strip. Arizona State University brings college kids in proximity, but it's also a popular spot for cruising and hanging out. The voyeur within us likes to sit back and watch the eclectic mix of teens, the young hippies selling hemp products with their dogs, punks with dyed hair spiked with egg whites, motorcycle gangs gawking at each other's crotch rockets, and even suburban families who have stumbled onto the scene. With such an array of characters, it is like watching a Fellini movie. Now that's what we call entertainment, and it's free.

Rather than killing us softly with your song, why not swing into this store and set yourself up for private, in-home karaoke humiliation. A mere $67.99 scores the most basic setup, but -- as Britney is well aware -- the more money one invests in equipment, the better one sounds. Fancier systems carry options such as a digital key controller that adjusts the singer's range, and microphones that regulate bass and treble levels. After ringing up headphones, wireless mikes, amplifiers, lighting gear and a specially built karaoke chair, it's time to name the tunes: country, cock rock, rap, Spanish, oldies, Broadway, gospel or children's. If Velvet Elvis: Songs of the King and Sing Like Celine Dion, volumes 1 through 4, don't rock your boat, pick up a copy of Kiss This, and belt out "Lick It Up" at your next Tupperware party. Don't forget the tambourine, maracas and disco ball.

Why did the Phoenix Baptist Hospital patient cross Bethany Home Road? To get to the Recovery Room. No joke. After enduring a hospital stay with $23 gelatin cups and flavorless IV drips, dischargees will liken this tavern's food specials to deep-fried manna from heaven. Free chili from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays, 99-cent quarter-pound burgers during NFL games, and a daily dollar lunch special: From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., buy any beverage and get a hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken sandwich or dos tacos for 99 cents. (All the better to fill out that hospital gown during your next bypass.) Plus, hospital workers who flash an ID badge score their second drink for a quarter. We can't resist saying it: It's a health of a deal.

It seems that the traditional places to pick up men or women have become tired. That ultimate classic, the bar, has become stale and it tends to carry a Cheers quality to it -- you know, "Everyone knows your . . . name." The second is a shot in the dark and scary: the personals. How many horror stories have you heard? Rest stops require driving, and, let's face it, not much to choose from. So, where does a single stand? At Bally Total Fitness, of course. This has become a mecca for beefcake of all varieties. Mmm, we're talking USDA prime cut meat here. There is plenty to choose from, and the simple fact is that if they are at the gym they must care about getting physical. There's equipment, but who are we fooling? More important, there's plenty of scenery to motivate you through that workout. So, boys and girls, pump some iron and if the stars align, find that elusive catch.

Six months ago, nobody in Phoenix -- make that nobody in Major League Baseball -- knew the first thing about Brandon Webb.

And while Phoenix has yet to realize what a rare gem he is, the rest of the country has jumped on the B-train. Brandon Webb is one of the country's few legitimate rookie pitching phenoms, and he couldn't have arrived at a better time for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

With Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling nearing the end of their careers, Webb has given D-Backs fans a new beginning. He is the future, the national poster boy of the emerging Baby-Backs.

The 2.45 ERA as of mid-August. Sixteen quality starts out of 18. Arguably the most wicked sinker in all of baseball. This from a low-round draft choice who just happened to do what thousands of others fail to do: refine spectacularly a raw and wild talent.

Now the D-Backs and their fans have the best of all worlds: a genial, fan-friendly star whose stay should be measured in decades, not months. Thanks, Brandon, for making the future look bright for baseball in the Valley.

Readers' Choice: Luis Gonzalez

The last time someone took us on a car-dinner date, we were 15, and it involved window service at a roller skating waitress-service hamburger shop. Well, these days, we're substantially older, and our tastes are substantially ritzier. The only vehicle vittles we'll be munching on are the ones in the opulent package offered by Cuisine Limousine. The evening starts with settling into a state-of-the-art luxury stretch from Jackson Limousines (provider of vehicles for such big shots as Colin Powell, Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, Billy Joel and Bill Cosby). Then, we're driven to a private spot atop Camelback Mountain, where a table is set for us with fresh exotic flowers, china, silver, crystal and votive candles. Our dinner is catered by Vincent's on Camelback, and includes our choice from a lengthy lists of appetizers, entrees, desserts, and wine or champagne. After our romantic dinner, our private limousine whisks us away to another tunnel of love, the gondola boat ride on the lake at the Hyatt Regency at Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale. The 4- to 12-hour package costs $495, but that does include gratuity, and just get a gander at some of these eats. Our favorite menu: lobster with leeks, cucumbers and lemon dressing, plus monkfish with apples and tomatoes in a calvados cream; or potato waffle with smoked salmon and cream of chives à la Daniel, plus rack of lamb with mustard and garlic. So long, soggy French fries dripping on the dashboard!

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