So I am thinking seriously about going with a custom build, or something close to it. Based on a mountain bike frame, but one with a shorter top tube than most MTB frames. Plan on using a rigid carbon fork.
So far I've found three good candidates.
The Gunnar Rock Tour, an "off-road touring" frame that is very much in the line of what I'm looking for. Made of OS X steel. A bit pricey at $975, but had lots of nice braze-on options.
From Salsa the Ala Carte frame, uses OS X steel in the main triangle, with fewer braze-ons, for example it only takes disc brakes. A Minnesota company that has the frames made in Taiwan. Much cheaper at $550, which includes the cro-moly fork. Also available as a complete bike that is very close to what I'm thinking about, except for it having a steel fork, and a couple other changes, like thinner, smoother tires, and a more upright stem.
Also from Salsa, a nice looking aluminum/carbon combo, the Moto Rapido. I find these frames to have a ride very similar to an all-steel frame, with the carbon seat stays smoothing out the vibrations nicely. I believe this one lists at $750.
The complete Salsa Ala Carte bike is a pretty sweet deal at $1470.
Anyone have any thoughts on these frames? Other suggestions?