This was a solo trip to bicycle in France, and see the Loire Valley chateaus. I made reservations on United Airlines in March for the later part of May, since that seemed to be a time when I've had good luck with the weather in Europe, the days were longer and the tourist season had really not yet gotten into full swing.
I did some research by buying the usual guide books, checking the internet (two good sources were Q. May's http://www.mayq.com/index.htm and Don LaVange's http://users.ids.net/~tandem/loire.htm web sites.), then made some hotel, hostel and bike rental arrangements via e-mail and the internet. I decided that since I wanted to spend a couple of days in Paris without added baggage, and I've had good luck in renting bikes, at least in Holland, I'd rent a bike once I got to Tours, which would be the epicenter of my tour of the Loire Valley.
As I've done in the past, I packed my panniers (which could convert into a backpack) and put them into an old army duffle bag, which I checked as luggage, and put camera, film and essentials into a small backpack that I carried onboard. I left the USA on Sunday, May 25th, via Chicago. And as is the norm these days, the plane was packed.