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It's an option to buy used and tinker. Just that, an option, and a viable one. You all are reacting as if I were recommending human sacrifice.
I was just pointing out that a $1,500 budget is fine. Let's say she's less lucky than I was and finds an excellent condition Miyata 610 for $300. She then needs a set of riser bars ($40), a stem adapter ($20), stem ($30), grips ($20), thumb shifters ($50), brake levers ($30). Throw in a set of tires for $50 and she now has the exact setup she wants for $540 and has nearly $1,000 left for racks and panniers.
Why own extra tires? Tires are expensive, unlikely to fail unexpectedly, and can be purchased quickly. I'm looking forward to hearing why others think it's important to keep all these tires around for so long that rubber degradation is an issue.
Yes tires and tubes can be outrageously expensive if you buy them on the spot from your local bike shop. As you do. Little more reasonable price if you buy them on sale over the internet. I don't like wasting money on tires and tubes so I buy them when on sale. And buy them in bulk since I have lots of bikes.
Folks on these boards advised me to go East to West, instead of the reverse.
I bought Ortlieb panniers. Waterproof and durable. Reading blogs and then seeing other riders on my test tour this is the most commonly used brand by far.
Minimize your clothing. Two sets of bike riding, one set of camp clothes. No chair. Jetboil cooker, one pan, one cup, plate and spork. The goal is to ride not camp.
Rain gear is where I am heavier than some. I have shower pass jacket, pants, water socks and hood. May go with just the jacket, I'm uncertain.
Most good shops would gladly switch out the handlebars for what you need. My LBS does this kind of modification for people all the time. It is usually more expensive to go from an up-right bar set-up to drop bars than the other way around. I don't think you will run into any trouble.Neither change is particularly cheap as you will need new shifters/brake levers, handlebars and probably a replacement stem. There are several flat bar road bikes and hybrids that come with flat bars and appropriate shifters, etc. Making them touring-suitable will be less expensive.
My mindset at this point is I will ride as much as possible in the time I have and if I make it to Idaho great, or if I make it to Washington DC great. I just want to increase the odds, and how many miles I'll make.