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If it were me, I would invest in a mountain bike compact triple crank set and the tools to do the job. It sounds like the crank would be more that you want to budget, but the tools could be cheaper than what the dealer would charge you to do things.
Practically every Starbucks, McDonald's and many other fast food chains have free WiFi. You don't even have to buy anything, just stand outside with your bike. With Skype on my iPod touch, I don't even need to use a cell phone when I cross the US.
I will change the cassette to 9 speed 11-34.Make sure your rear derailleur will handle it. I don't know how to do that, but somebody here does.
The cassette is a 9 speed 11/30. So I gather I should change it for a larger one. Yes? The Sora front derailleur has never worked. In general the SORA drivetrain has been a pain. I'm willing to upgrade to the best touring drivetrain if it can be done affordably.
Trek has produced the 520 for years. Comments have been weak rear rack and not low enough gearing. I am turned off by the Kona by the high front rack braze-ons. Front rack bags should be centered on front axle for maximum stability.