P. Ben Arredondo Sports Complex
Little old Tempe has five dog parks, which is more per human companion than we've found in any other Valley city. But the pick of the litter is the two-acre dog park at the Tempe Sports Complex near Hardy Drive and Warner Road.

It shouldn't be surprising that the biggest and best dog park is located on the side of Tempe that has the fewest residents — in swanky South Tempe, not the aptly named Sin City district near Arizona State University. We got lost trying to find it the first time, in part because the north-south Hardy Drive doesn't go through from Guadalupe to Elliot roads. The sports complex is so big, we were lost after we got there, too. We thought one of the fenced-in softball fields was the dog park until our old pooch started straining at her leash, pulling in the right direction.

Dogs will find plenty of room to roam here — and we usually sit on top of one of the picnic tables to avoid the slobbery, though friendly, snouts that come our way. The grass was in perfect shape in early June, and gravel areas break up the open space and give the mutts something else to explore. Gates also divide the park's middle, but they're always propped open, a couple with a floppy brown Lab told us. When we were there on a weeknight at about 8 p.m. (it's open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.), the place was full of flouncing Fidos and their owners. Rosy went home exhausted.

Chaparral Park
This spacious, 4-acre off-leash doggy park, constructed in early 2007 at the north end of lush Chaparral Park, is most definitely the dog's bollocks. Three gate-controlled and fenced-off areas include separate sections for passive dogs and active dogs, which is only disappointing news if you hang out at dog parks to watch Chihuahuas trying to hump Great Danes. The park also boasts a separate off-leash parking area, an adorable doggy drinking fountain and a display board with K-9 activity fliers, park announcements, and listings for pet-sitting services. The park is open from sunrise to 10 p.m., and admission is always free.
Encanto Park
This charming park in the historic Encanto-Palmcroft neighborhood is hands-down the loveliest in the city, and there's a simple reason why: trees. Unlike Steele Indian School Park, Encanto doesn't look like it was cheated by the landscaping department. Far from it. Even on the hottest day, the tall palms around Encanto Lake seem to draw a breeze just by virtue of their balmy presence. With the 7.5-acre lake snaking around a host of great picnic spots and recreation areas, this looks like something Walt Disney would design for one of his theme parks. Instead, it's right here in Phoenix, and it's utterly free. Watch out, though, for the Enchanted Island Amusement Park — your kids are going to beg you for a train ride or a turn on the carousel, and while the prices are far from Disney's, you will pay for the pleasure.
For this little fishing hole, there are a few important things to know right away: It's illegal, so you'd best ride your bike to get there, in case you need a quick getaway. You don't want to eat the luggish motherfuckers you pull out of there. And you've got to watch the rain and water levels to see if it's even worth the trek down. Otherwise, you've got shade provided by the highways above, you're generally out of sight, and you can sometimes get a good fight out of the various bottom feeders that dwell in these parts.

Don't worry about a fishing license — you're trespassing, anyway, so it won't do you much good should the boys in blue notice you. But a couple of poles, some worms or chicken liver, and a six-pack of Old Style provide a few hours of good times, right in the middle of this desert metropolis.

All drivers, except trailer drivers, hate trailers. The miserable mechanical beasts are the bane of the highway, the scourge of the byway. Remember the time you were cranking top-down on that twisting mountain road and you screeched up behind Grandma and Grandpa Jones toodling along at 20? Ahhhhhhh!

Multiply that vehicular impotence a hundredfold and you've got Sisters on the Fly, a clan of adventure-seeking chicks who la-la-la around the country, clogging up traffic arteries with their "cowgirl caravans" — 20-plus flotillas of vintage, custom-painted Shastas, Alohas, Fireballs, and Airstreams.

The group was formed in 1998 by a couple of fly-fishing sisters who decided to bring some friends along on their next field trip. The concept caught on, and the Sisterhood now numbers about 630, with members ranging in age from 21 to 87, and a thriving Arizona chapter. The annual membership fee is $35, which gets you a personalized Sisters on the Fly vehicle sticker, a subscription to the group's newsletter, and a permanent black mark in the hearts of non-trailer drivers everywhere.

From the outside, Jody Kieran's makeshift bird hospital seems like any ol' brown tract structure in the desert. But step inside the nondescript West Valley home and prepare yourself for a wacky, surrealistic experience. The not-for-profit haven for injured and orphaned fowl grants medical attention to just about any type of bird species, including raptors, hummingbirds, baby chicks, owls, parrots, and many more. Cages out front, in the backyard, the kitchen, and in a spare bedroom, each housing a chirping a bird on the road to recovery, dominate the space. Before you make the trek to the west side, get schooled in emergency DIY bird care on FF's "Found a Bird?" page on their Web site.

There's no fee for animal care, but donations are appreciated and graciously accepted. And don't be afraid if Kieran's eccentric mom greets you, even when she's dolled up in her cute and colorful curlers.

Phoenix Art Museum
We seek refuge, and often. We do it through music, through food and drink, and other forms of escape that we'll leave to your imagination. But working in downtown Phoenix as we do, refuge just hasn't been much of an option, unless you count hunkering down at the now-smokeless bar at Durant's.A ways south on Central from Durant's is just what the refuge doc ordered, and at an art museum, no less. With the kind financial bump of the Dorrance Family Foundation, the gloriously reconfigured museum recently finished installation of a one-acre, secure outdoor garden, replete with 140 mature trees — we love the Arizona ash and willow acacia — and a bunch of thought-provoking sculptures. With plenty of spots to just sit and take it all (or nothing) in, it's a delightful urban haven. Even stepping out onto Central, where light-rail construction continues, doesn't seem so bad in the afterglow.
Shangri La Ranch
Looking to express your freedom of choice with some nudie fun? Well, you name it and the Shangri La nudist camp probably has it. Naked swimming, volleyball and hiking are just a few of the options available to clothing-optional newbies and family-oriented die-hards.

Outdoor activities center on the large pool, while indoor options feature a clubhouse with billiards and darts as well as the weekend-only Bare Buns Café, serving snacks and coffee drinks. Tuesday nights are potlucks, and there's always a rockin' Saturday-night dance shindig celebrating holidays such as Earth Day or themed events like the Bunny Hop, in which you can actually wear something like rabbit ears or an Easter bonnet to the dance. The curious can download a one-time-only guest pass online, while mainstayers can take advantage of the lifetime membership.

So, you went out and bought that bad boy of a motorcycle just for the heck of it. It wasn't that your midlife job (and the accompanying stress) was all that bad, but you were just looking for something new and exciting that wouldn't get you in too much trouble with the wife.

Oh, okay, she jumped all over you for this sudden and unquenchable need to be a potential organ donor. But a guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do, right? Yeah, baby!

And what a route you found, one that scoots you, in almost no time, far from the maddening crowds of our metropolis. Here's how it goes: From central Phoenix, get up to the 101 East, either from Interstate 17 or 51 North. Exit at the Princess/Pima Road offramp and follow the signs from Pima Road North to the lake. The views of the mountains and desert are as good as it gets around here, and the traffic, thankfully, is usually sparse. By the time you're halfway there, the city seems far, far away. Stick on your helmet (please!), watch out for the lame-brains driving all around you, and get your motor running.

When we were kids, Mom used to drive us on Sunday mornings over the desert and through the cactus — to Carefree, where there was little more than a tiny convenience store and (luckily) a bathroom. We were too young to appreciate the beauty of the raw landscape; we just wanted to go back to the city, to Thomas Mall, and get an Icee. Today, we finally appreciate a nice open expanse, but alas, the Valley's been mowed by development. We love the drive from Scottsdale to Phoenix, via Cave Creek, because to us, it represents the best of both worlds. We can check in on the new acres of homes (there are certainly some cheesy developments, but as we get to the more expensive parts of north Scottsdale, we have to admit that some are downright habitable) and still glimpse an expanse of soothing desert.

From Scottsdale Road, head north. Don't take the freeway. If you must, cut over to Hayden to avoid mid-Scottsdale traffic, then dip back to Scottsdale Road and head up to Carefree. In those parts, Scottsdale Road turns into Tom Darlington (not the only cute name in the town — check out some of the other street signs, but only if you're a passenger; we're not trying to get anyone killed here) and you'll turn left (west) on Cave Creek Road from Darlington. That takes you through the picturesque home of some pretty good junk shops, as well as the Satisfied Frog brew pub and a number of biker bars (again, we're not telling you to get a beer; just sharing the info) and then, outside that town, you'll hit a nice expanse of desert.

Keep driving and, eventually, you'll hit the outskirts of Sunnyslope, then central Phoenix, when Cave Creek runs right into Seventh Street. It's a half-loop you don't hear much about in these days of new freeways, and it might not be the quickest way to get to your destination (and maybe not the best bet if you actually have a destination in mind) but it'll show you a part of the city we bet you haven't seen.

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