Novara Randonee for general non-touring use?
I'm looking for a bike for bike path rides, mostly 20-ish miles, some longer, some unpaved. Maybe some very very light touring (credit card, weekend type stuff, not really long days). And also easy family rides with the inlaws and eventually kids. I want the ability to use say 700x35c tires and fenders if the mood strikes me. I don't want an agressive riding position like my old racing bike. I don't want to spend piles of money, say << $1k. I am thinking of fitness bike (Trek 7.5 FX or similar) with bar ends, and with the possibility of switching to trekking bars if I need more hand positions later. But I'm still not 100% sure I wouldn't be better off with drop bars.
The Novara Randonee is sticking in the back of my mind as a possibility. It seems like it's sturdy enough and has enough clearance for dirt paths, and might be good for all but really go-fast road riding (which I don't want to do anyway). But it also has braze-ons for spare spokes, which suggests that it is a serious touring rig, and I am not a serious tourer. Still, it seems like it might be the least expensive drop bar bike that will let me do all of the kinds of rides I want to do and it has a friendly riding position. I hear that the REI bikes are going on sale in about a week, making it even less expensive than a Volpe or an Aurora (which I have looked at and for reasons that I can't quite put my finger on didn't excite me).
Is the Randonee a great idea for me, or is it too much of a heavy duty tourer for what I want to do? Thanks for your advice!