Tilting with windmills
Join Date: May 2008
Location: North Texas 'Burbs
+1 on letting the back side "break in". The first few rides, even coople of weeks can be a bit painful. Shorts are a big help and you might want to look at MTB shorts. They have the lycra liner but have a cargo short outer covering.
With a 2K budget, you have a world of choices for cross bikes. Best bet is to just hit every LBS in your area and test ride them.
It's good thing the cross season is basically over here. It's easier to not want one, lol.
Edit: I have soft spot for the Bianchi Volpe.....