Some time around the age of 11, I outgrew my rad Huffy BMX bike and sold it at a garage sale. When I turned 12, my parents gave me a birthday card promising to buy me a new bicycle. We were in the process of moving to Oklahoma at the time, so bike shopping had to wait until we got here.
When we got here, I lived in a neighborhood where riding bikes wasn't a safe thing to do. We had a rental house, so the promise became "once we get a real house" and I had to wait. Then we moved to the country and had a gravel road with crappy ditches on either side, and the only traffic was wheat trucks driving 80mph down the street. This too was deemed unsafe, and my bicycle owning dream was left to rot in the wheat fields.
I'm 25 now. Still have the card, and damnit, I'm gonna get my bike. After all these years, my folks are still tired of me pulling the "oh, like that bike you promised and I never got" comment. They've offered to get me one, finally.
//end sad story
I need to get out of the house and <s>lose some weight</s>, do something physical. I'm looking for suggestions on a mountain bike or similar that can take the abuse of potholed roads and gravel. Any suggestions on something durable and strong? It seems that 10-speeds barely exist these days, and all the bike makers I used to know are the pits. Also, it needs to be below $300, as I understand the offer.