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I'm trying to to stay as inexpensive as possible.When trying to use a non-touring bike for touring, it's usually best to consider using a trailer rather than panniers. You won't need the extra fittings, the short chainstays won't be a problem, the wheels don't need to be quite a strong, and you can carry extra water in the trailer. Be sure to take some test trips before your big one. Go for a few days with all the gear you need to go cross-country. Unfortunately, riding in Florida is not going to tell you if your gearing is low enough. Good luck.
If we do an average of approximately 60 miles per day how much time do you predict it can take? (Considering all the stops you suggested! )