Enough, already it's time to get out of the rock gym and climb outdoors. We know indoor climbing walls are fun, but they are to climbing what stationary bikes are to cycling. And there's no better first climb to conquer than Praying Monk. Camelback Mountain is right in the middle of the Valley, meaning that if you really screw up, there are plenty of hospitals and a nearby fire station filled with friendly, trained mountain rescue professionals. But don't worry, the toughest part of your day will probably be finding a parking spot in the tiny lot at Echo Canyon, off McDonald Drive. The Monk is a freestanding, leaning tower of ancient congealed mud, tinted red like the rest of Camelback. A short scramble gets you to the Monk's plateau; the often-shaded, boulder-strewn cubby at the base is a good place to don your climbing shoes. The east face route is bolted so you don't need much gear, just one rope and some quick-draws, which are two carabiners connected to a bit of sewn webbing. Life on the "sharp end" of the rope, as leading is sometimes called, can be a bit unnerving because there's no rope already fixed at the top to catch you when you come off the rock. But the bolts are close together, and you won't run into any life-or-death decisions. A lead fall here, unlikely as that is for a competent climber, would be perfect practice for a more serious climb. You will, however, be mesmerized by the exposure. Your heels will stick out over a hundred feet of air as you look for embedded pebbles to grasp for finger-holds on the orange-pink, not-quite-vertical face. Gym rats should take a good look around as they go up this is real climbing. A pleasurable, free-hanging rappel brings the climbing party back down to earth. You've now graduated from lead school. Next stop: K2.
Mountains must be climbed because they are there, but some people also feel compelled to stand on all big, pointy things. Show us any rock tower, pinnacle, cone or spire and we'll find a photo of someone showing off on top of the damned thing. So we understand if you've been looking with desire at Weaver's Needle, a stubby finger of rock rising 1,000 feet from the desert floor in the Superstition range. You've seen it from Fountain Hills or your drives up the Beeline to Payson, and you've wondered if it were possible to climb. Well, don't hold back. It's not that technical, except for one part in the middle that requires climbing gear and a couple of ropes for safety. Anyone with strong hiking legs, a bit of climbing expertise and a lot of chutzpah can bag the summit. Take U.S. 60 to Peralta Road, then hike Peralta Trail up and over the saddle to the base of the Needle. From there, it's an ugh-fest up the steep slope to a gully that bisects the giant lump of rock. This is a good place to get a drink and rest up for the summit push. (In fact, if it's the middle of summer, you'll need a cooler of cold drinks and even then, beware of heat stroke.) A long, easy rock climbing pitch up past a big chockstone gets climbers to the fun part a couple hundred feet of unroped ascension on easy vertical terrain. Easy and potentially deadly. If you fell near the top, you'd have time to open a parachute before you hit the ground. But you won't fall, right? You'll be having lunch on the grandest, pointiest summit in the Valley. And if you can't get enough of the sublime view, there's enough room to throw out some sleeping mats and spend the night. Sweet dreams!
Don't be alarmed if you happen to hear indecipherable nerd babble echoing off the fluorescent bathed hallways of ASU's Bateman Physical Science building. That's because Physics and Astronomy graduate students are high off cool neutrons and totally hot electrons during the department's free open house. Every last Friday of the month from September through November and February through April, the public can participate in high-energy physics demonstrations and attend presentations on cosmic hot topics ranging from the search for new planets to trans-Neptunian solar system discoveries. After receiving tutelage on light prisms and cosmic energy fields, stroll out to the fifth-floor observation deck, where up to 10 portable eight-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain reflector telescopes are zoomed on eye-popping Milky Way stars, moons, and planets. Pray for clear skies and commence stargazing, space cadet.

BEST PLACE FOR A SELF-CONFIDENCE-BUILDING WORKOUT

Central Boxing Club

Don't be intimidated if you see Mike Tyson working out nearby, because what the Central Boxing Club is more about is honing the pugilistic skills of average folks. Really. Iron Mike and other big-name fighters, including Julio Cesar Chavez, have trained at the club. But the main emphasis of general manager Harwood Hamilton, a former champion on the Toughman non-professional boxing circuit, is providing everyday clients (he has about 150 so far) around Phoenix with an exercise routine that will not only keep them in formidable shape but will give them the confidence to walk the mean streets of P-town with a definite swagger. He calls it his "motivational fitness program." The workout is open to almost everybody (children 8 and above must have the permission of their parents), and the day we were there, a couple of middle-age ladies were bobbing and weaving with the gloves on. After you've worked up to it that is, done your time on the numerous punching bags around the gym, plus mastered jump-roping you will enter the ring with the affable Tony Roberts of the boxing-workout circle. And though he's built like a compact NFL running back, Harwood Hamilton won't hurt you much. He'll train you to handle yourself with your fists. And we can tell you from experience that boxing is one of the best full-body workouts available right up there with swimming and sex, only it streamlines your reflexes as a bonus. Prices range from $130 to $210 a month, depending on how much intensity you can stand. A couple of Hamilton's clients we talked to considered this a bargain, considering they were getting into peak shape while learning how to (God forbid they will have to, but you never know in the big city) throw a punch. Don't be put off by the seedy location; there are plenty of muscle-bound guys around for security. Also, the venerable gym's been refurbished with murals of great fighters outside and to the extent that you could eat off the floor inside. No smell of sweaty jockstraps here.
Even with the revived popularity of ballroom dancing, thanks to reality television, it's no surprise that we found the best ballroom dancing in Sun City, a town where "flashing" involves showing a guy your AARP card, and "bar hopping" means getting up to order a brandy without using your walker. Every Thursday through Sunday, Lou's Tivoli Gardens hosts dine-and-dance night, where grannies get blitzed on wine and strut their sagging stuff on the dance floor. Latin keyboardist Manuel Dorantes performs most evenings. If you can suffer through requests for "Tea for Two" and "Beer Barrel Polka," it's the best place in town to learn how to fake it at your cousin's wedding.
Manzanita Speedway
With NASCAR and Formula One on such a posh high these days, it's good to know that them good ol' boys are still holding down the redneck racing fort at "The Track That Action Built." Instead of mega-corporate sponsors and luxury suites garnished with shrimp and fine wines, Manzy offers $2 bean burros, cheap beer, and free dirt clods in the eyes. Since 1951, some of the biggest players in racing lore have spun their wheels here at one time or another: A.J. Foyt, Bobby and Al Unser, Mario Andretti, and local legend Wild Bill Cheesbourg, who successful competed at the Indy 500 for 10 years. Watch eight racing classes scream around the half-mile and quarter-mile dirt tracks, including midgets, sprints, modifieds, and dwarfs. The track's signature event is the 150-lap Bomber Enduro exhaust-a-thon, in which 70 cars bump, grind, and peel their way to the finish. Manzy ain't gonna stop hootin' and hollerin' anytime soon.
Speedway Raceway
Okay, so it's all just a fantasy. But we've seen this particular fantasy the one about becoming a world-class NASCAR competitor taking the checkered flag at some super-cool international drag race overtake even our stuffiest friends. There's something about the thrill of zipping around Speedway Raceway's curvy quarter-mile indoor track in a 270cc Honda-powered Indy-style go-kart that morphs us into a hairpin-turn-hugging speed demon doing 1.5 lateral G's on a quarter-mile track. Speedway is open 365 days a year so that the kid in all of us (although real kids ages 8 to 14 drive Speedway Junior Karts) can catch a thrill-a-minute raceway high any day we want one. And we're off!
Ever since Jesse James swag began to outsell Mary-Kate and Ashley stuff at Wal-Mart, everyone and his mom seems to want a pimped-out chopper. The only problem a true boutique chopper is both difficult and expensive to build. That's where the Wicked Bros come in. They've been building custom sleds and chops since long before the Discovery Channel made chopping cool and can pretty much build whatever you can dream up. Wicked Bros builds its own frames, called Synister, with integrated oil reservoirs and the choice of a 280 tire with full-size belt or a 300 tire with full-size chain. For parts seekers, Wicked Bros also carries a full line of exhaust systems (its own exclusive Bourget Wizard is one of our faves). With some cajoling, they might even let you come into the shop and yell at you during the building process if you really want to have your own true American Chopper experience.
Local car enthusiasts Syd "The Squid" and Tammy Chase love chopping and reconcocting vintage cars so much that the vehicles fill the driveway, front yard, and backyard of the couple's Glendale home, sometimes spilling out onto the street. Not all of the cars belong to the Chases since they founded The Invaders car club in 1998, more than 20 members have joined the club, bringing rides like '49 Ford Shoeboxes, '49 Mercurys, '59 Cadillacs, '56 Chevy Wagons, and 1950 custom Chevys to the couple's home for body work or customizing. A lot of what The Invaders do with their cars is for show, as the club makes the trip to the Viva Las Vegas rockabilly festival every year and hosts a slew of custom car shows around town. The Chases say the members of The Invaders range in age from their 20s to their 40s, and having an old car is pretty much the only requirement to join the club. "It's just about having a good time with your friends," Syd Chase says. Sure beats a crowd that will only befriend you if you drive a new car!
Tempe Bicycle
Good bike shops are a lot like good bars: They have their own smell, their own special mood. They are not too clean, they are not too new, they are staffed with people who might otherwise not be employed. They are not designed off some corporate template for success, but rather off someone's obsession. Tempe Bicycle is a good bike shop, the best of the good bike shops in the Valley. And no doubt, it gets its cool energy from its locale, just three blocks from Mill Avenue and ASU close enough to be bicycle counterculture, not too close to have been made into College Disney like much of Mill. Yeah, yeah, they know bikes. They service well, they have a fine selection of tech and tough off-road and on-road rides. That makes them good, but not necessarily special. A lot of bike shops have good gear and good gurus. But here, you get the bike culture: that sometimes stoned world where the disdain for the combustion engine goes hand-in-hand with good music and good fun and a universe of progressive ideas. Much of this world has been stamped out of ASU by "public-private partnerships," et al. But it will never completely die as long as the Tempe Bicycles of the 'hood survive.

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