The stars are bright but my cell phone reception is fading. And that’s just fine. I’m here, at Tucson’s Tanque Verde Ranch, to recharge my own batteries.

Between the cell phone, iPod and laptop, I’ve found it’s tough to just unplug and relax sometimes. A peaceful Arizona dude ranch is such a perfect antidote that it’s amazing more vacationers don’t try it. One reason: most Western dude ranches have a one-week minimum stay – longer than we 24/7 types have for a getaway.

But the good news: all of the ranches around Tucson let you stay for just a night or two (except during holidays). So here I am, a dude for a day or so. And I’m laptop-less, and loving it!

All About Horses

“There’s nothing I don’t like about horses – except maybe the smell!” says Emily Duprey, one of Tanque Verde’s wranglers.

I love riding, too, so I’m jazzed that the first thing I see here is the corral. “We’re all about horses,” Emily notes with a laugh.

Well, yes and no. Tanque Verde does emphasize riding. But there’s much more: three swimming pools, tennis courts, a nature center, hiking and mountain biking, an extensive kids program, even a spa. And, while there are no TVs in the rooms, there is a TV and a computer with Internet access for guests to use, as well as WiFi capability for true laptop addicts.

Tanque Verde is in the Rincon Mountains, edging Saguaro National Park. Hiking is also huge here, so I tag along on a guided hike leaving the ranch’s nature center. Soon, we’re in tall cottonwoods, spotting phainopepla (crested, shiny black) and Anna’s hummingbirds. A sort of whistle catches my ear.

“Hear that?” asks our guide. “It’s a cardinal – they migrate through here.” Even without binoculars, I spot the bright scarlet bird sitting atop a saguaro.

Raring to Ride

After an elegant dinner – I order from a menu that offers wine pairings for each entrée – and a restful night in a deluxe suite, I’m raring to ride by morning. Guests can take a riding lesson, or choose a walking ride, loping ride or laid-back breakfast ride. Of the latter, one guest tells me the pancakes are “awesome,” so that’s the ride for me.

The sun is already warm on my back as I swing into the saddle aboard a tall bay horse and ride into the hills behind our wrangler. He’s lean, well-tanned and a man of few words. “Just call me Joe,” he says.

Our steeds kick up dust, jackrabbits scurry past and the chatter of a cactus wren breaks the deep silence.

Now, I’m really unwinding. I take a deep breath, and there’s a kind of sweet tang to the air. “There was some rain last night,” Joe says, “and you’re smelling the creosote bush – it’s the smell of the desert.”

I can see thousands of saguaro cacti, the distant Catalina Mountains, but not a single cell phone tower. Yep, I’ve found my bliss.

Find yours at the following dude ranches, whether you want to stay for a day – or longer.