I saw an article yesterday about the demise of the "touring" bike, and it suggests to me a great way to get an excellent bike for less. You see, about 25 to 30 years back, a lot of people bought wonderful touring bikes during the Carter oil shock, and due to the collapse of oil prices from the Reagan administration until a few years back, they've been mostly sitting in the garages of their owners. Now those owners are retiring and dying off, and those high quality bikes are waiting for you to find them in garage sales.
Now don't "bite" if it's a Huffy, Free Spirit, or other "off" brand, but you will from time to time find good Fujis, Schwinns, Peugeots, and so on. You can have them quite rideable for the price of new tires and inner tubes, and they're built a little bit heavier to carry loads and absorb the shocks of the roads. Just the thing for commuting, leisure riding, and...well...touring.
Yes, that would mean I'm coming to the conclusion that a 29 year old Schwinn LaTour III is the perfect bike for me. Yes, if I spent a few thousand dollars, I could reduce the weight of my ride by ten or 15 pounds. But ya know, if I spent a little more time on the bike I have, I could also reduce the weight on my ride by 10 to 15 pounds. Or 30.