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Well we will see. I have fallen for the 2013 Salsa Vaya 3. After being in contact with bike stores - it looks like this bike was all sold out from Salsa in November 2012.
I think that's a reasonable hope. However, I can imagine Cat getting into Portland in the middle of busy bike shop season, and she may do well to get any new bike fit to her. The dealer should cut her a deal to change the crank, but will he have the parts and the shop time to make a change?
One nit on Russ' response, the Randonnee is a 10 speed for the last couple years.
And FWIW, the Randonnee is the second least expensive choice with a stock front crank smaller than 30 teeth, listing at $1200. (At least a couple weeks ago.) The Jamis Aurora is least expensive at $950, though you might want a bigger rear cluster, followed by the LHT around $1350 and the 520 at $1500. I personally spend a lot of time in my bottom two gears when I'm riding loaded, and the Salsa Vaya is geared a bit high, at least for me -- plus it's more expensive than the four models above.
Today I have been reading a lot about Salsa Vaya 3. That would be a good touring bike, right? As I would need a 54, I would get 700 tires. The disc brakes donĀ“t seem to bad.
My tours have all been of the short 7-10 variety for many of the reasons raised. It is clear to me that for some folks taking extended bike tours are worth significant deprivations in other areas of their life. While that is great for some people, it doesn't work for everybody. But there are lots of ways to have fun on a bike tour and you don't have to be gone for 3 months to have a memorable trip.
Another popular thing to wonder about is how those couples who have been traveling for the last 10 years finance it. It's a mystery.
The LHT is their fully loaded tourer and the Cross Check would be a slightly lighter tourer but both have fittings for front and rear racks, fenders, wide tires, etc. For the price, you can't do better.