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Actually I did not invent the idea. Frank Berto did an article for bicycling called building a bicycle for an adult female. He did radial right and 3 cross left. He pointed out nearly all of the torque would be transferred to the left side which is under less stress. You are certain to bust a flange with radial spoking.
Hi Ben -
The only part of the trail that I dislike is around Rochester. There are sections where the tree roots have pushed up the pavement and it a jarring/bumpy ride. There are also some section where you integrate with roads and there was broken glass to deal with. Only around Rochester though from my experience.
The single best bit of advice I've seen regarding SKS fender installation is to make sure you file the ends of the cut fender mounting rods round. Greatly reduces the chance to stab yourself (or your wife).
Deep section rims are more durable and strong and can tolerate fewer spokes that the usual 36 or even 40 often recommended for touring.
For what it is worth, on my first cross-country tour back in the 80's I actually broke two Blackburn low-rider front racks. Granted, I may have been packing more weight up front in order to try to better balance my load front to back, however, the overall weight wasn't anything extreme.
Brakes: Any brakes are fine. Disc brakes on touring bikes are uncommon.
IMHE sidepull brakes are doable, but I would not say "fine". Cantilevers, with greater stopping power, are more standard for touring.
Bar-end shifters: These are sometimes preferred because the cables don't get in the way of your handlebar bag. If that's not an issue for you, then what you have is fine.
Opting for bar-end shifters to avoid cables interferring with handlebar bag is a last reason I would give for making that choice. Of greater importance is robustness of bar ends compared to brifters. Many have toured with brifters (combining shifter/brake), but I have switched several bikes from brifters to bar ends for more reliability for fully loaded touring. Usually, if brifters are standard on touring bike it is on bike made for light touring