Maggie and I have just returned from a trip to Death Valley with our tandem. It sounds an odd choice, but it's quite rational - Death Valley is a National Park, which means that the roads (and everything else) are immaculately maintained, people only go there on holiday so the few cars are outstandingly considerate of cyclists and the weather at this time of the year is spectacularly good. Access is quite easy - direct flights to Las Vegas, which is less than three hours away, and all arrangements were made by Rich Merrick of Cycling Escapes who provided first class van and ride support from airport pick-up to airport drop-off.
Cycling Escapes offers 'challenging' riding - 100+ miles on some days and more than 5000' of ascent on others. We found the climbs hard - harder than the Alps - as the roads tend to be relatively modern, with steady gradients sometimes going on for twenty miles or more. They are designed for cars, not for walkers or horse traffic as many European roads originally were, so there's no respite. But starting below sea level and ending 5600 feet above it is a good day out (Mont Ventoux is 4200 feet of climbing); or riding for eighty miles without ever going above sea level is another interesting experience.
The routes were planned and supported by Cycling Escapes. The van is important, as for most routes you encounter no human habitation at all. Distances are large, and running short of water would be a serious mistake. The van and trailer are comprehensively equipped with spares, food, water and so on and wait at pre-specified 'SAG' points - about twenty miles apart - until all the party has passed, before scooting on to the next 'SAG'. Lunch is taken at the roadside - chairs and tables from the van - and the van is last in to the hotel, so no-one is stranded. Despite all this, it's lonely out there...
The trip is billed as 422 miles and 21,300' of climbing - we cut a couple of corners so did less than this, but we were still over 400 miles and 20,000' - not bad for November, and, with daytime temperatures in the 80s, all in summer kit.
So if you're looking for somewhere to beat the Winter gloom, the deserts of South Western USA are worth a look. We'll be back.