Still reading this thread everyday. Even though I said I made a decision, I'm still forever wavering.
Went by two LBS's today. I was looking at ~$600 Trek X-Cals/older gary fisher models, Specialized and Cannondale MTBs and trying out my friend's K2 26er. There were some specialized CX bikes at my LBS but none my my size... was a Crux not a Tricross.
I didn't know how hard it would be to throw around the weight of a 29er. I thought they'd be a lot lighter but it also felt very squishy with the large tires and suspension. Maybe because I'm from a road bike background? I always have my suspension on my hybrid bike on full lock when i ride it. I'm going to do more riding tomorrow on the K2 26er, borrowing it for tomorrow. Going to search for CX bikes to try as well.
I'm testing bikes on a mix between paved roads, bike paths, grass and some dips on the asphalt. I don't want to break any bikes I haven't paid for yet : )
I went to one of my LBS and was stopped by cyclocross junkies. They started advertising all the CX events in my area. Now my friends are interested. I convinced my MTB friends to try some Cyclocross events with me and see how it goes. It's not a bad incentive to try it out. I'm doing research on entry level carbon/al CX bikes at the moment.
I'll try to keep you guys updated on my adventure.