The kind of bike I'm looking for seems to fit mostly into a "hybrid" sytle. Something that works well for commutes on city streets but won't get bent out of whack or toss me off if I hit the odd pothole or take an off-road trail. Also something that is built to stand up to longer travels without a lot of maintenance. I'm not afraid to spend a couple of hours fixing up my bike, but I don't want to do it ever week.
So it looks like I'm planning on spending $600-$800 on the bike itself, plus money for a helmet, lights, panniers and probably some clothing. (I'm sure Ericka will think I'm adorable in bike shorts....) Probably a grand in total. This is something I'd like to do before the summer is out so I'll probably have to draw on my home equity line of credit to pay most of it.