I'd like to thank everyone who replied to my original thread about which bike to get. I'll be picking up a Jamis Dakota XC this week from my LBS. It's the 2003 model but it's new and they're only charging me $800
I would also like to share my bike shopping experience though cause it seems times have changed since the last time I bought a bike. I visited 3 shops last weekend and this was how it played out.
Shop #1: Supposedly this is the largest shop in New England so I figured it'd be a good bet that they would have something. The salesman was pretty nice - asked me what I'd be using the bike for etc... He said that nobody makes steel bikes anymore but he might have something in their used shop. So we head over there and he proceeds to try and sell me a 10 year old frame and fork (it was a Gunnar I think) for $500. I said thanks but no thanks and left.
Shop #2: This is the shop I go to for all of my track stuff. I've known the owner for a few years and I was aware that thye wouldn't have anything in shop but they might be able to help me out otherwise. After talking to the owner for a bit, he was willing to call his reps to see what he could do. A week later he had ordered the Dakota for me and is giving me a price I fon't think I can refuse.
Shop #3: I walked in and didn't really see anything I was interested in. I told the salesman I was looking for a steel hardtail and he proceeded to try and sell me a Cannondale insisting it was steel. Needless to say I didn't stick around long which is too bad because they sell lots of Konas but not once did he offer to see what he could get me.
I was a bit dismayed with the whole shopping experience and lack of expertise I had experienced but at least I got a good deal and can hopefully get a ride in this week