I hadn't ridden a bike since I was probably 15 until three weeks ago. This spring I taught my son how to ride his bike without training wheels. In the process I'd promised to get a bike and ride with him, which is where I made my mistake!
My original intent was to go to WalMart and buy the first $69 bike I saw. Well, I went and wasn't overly impressed at that range so I decided to step all the way up to the $99 bikes! Well, I looked at them and then went home and researched a little bit, deciding that wasn't the right answer either. So I went to Dick's and bought a $200 Diamondback 0utlook. I rode that the first week around 35miles. After a week I wanted something that was a little stiffer up front and shifted with triggers. I talked Dick's into taking it back in exchange for a DB Response. I had that exactly 24hrs before it went back because it DB claimed it came with Alivio shifters when in fact it didn't. DB was no help and actually rude so I just took the bike back.
All this time I'd been reading bikeforums.net little by little and decided to follow seemingly everyones advice, I went to a LBS. After researching several bikes at my price point ($300-380) and talking at length to several LBS' I decided on a Trek 4300 non-disk bike. I went non-disk because every person I spoke to with an opinion said that the Alivio disks the 4300 came with were subpar so not worth the extra money. It's certainly not a top end bike, not even a middle end bike, but for me it's pretty decent. I'm enjoying XC riding quite a bit and riding 12-18mi 3 or 4 times a week so far.
Anyway, just wanted to say hello and thanks to everyone who's posts I was able to search for and give me the advice I wanted.