Well, I've changed the hose, the thermostat and the timing is set and it seems to be keeping cooler for the most part, not perfectly constant at full warm up, but cooler than before.
I have noticed the temperature spike a little now and then, but with no particular pattern (it happens when on the highway, at idle, or driving slowly). Overall, it seems to be running cooler, but I suspect the small warm ups might actually be electrical (i.e. something to do with the sensor or wiring) when the gauge goes back down to just above the second notch, it does so in a "jumpy" manner.
I'll give this a look and report back, but overall, I'm a little more at ease with the temperature now.
1976 230 W115