Thank you guys,
Even though I gave you almost no background information, each of you provided some very valuable information. Knowing that the shop willingly deals with many clueless college students as well as helping out knowledgeable cyclist like yourselves, that their mechanics are able to work on the low end (harder to maintain) bikes, that they are willing to loan tools, etc. helped sell me on the shop. I know, you guys actually recommended against them for a touring bike, but my reasoning for picking them follows:
Good friendly mechanics and Karen seems willing to cater to my oddities,
like an even swap for the $20-25 peddles that come with the bike - for some Cinelli Gel-Cork Bar Tape color = natural cork (the Brook saddle and leather bar tape is going on a bike I have at home in Hawaii),
I will end up swapping out the left brake lever for an old STI lever that no longer shifts - but will allow me to mount an STI mirrycle mirror (awesome product)
Bicycle Express is an authorized Raleigh dealer,
I had already determined my touring bike would be a 2010 Raleigh Sojourn (easy for shop to get),
I already know what size I needed without shop help,
best price from other shops for 2010 Raleigh Sojourn was $1100, Bicycle Express offered it for $900,
Bicycle Express is within walking distance (4 miles) of where I will be visiting/stay the previous night,
if something does not go just right and I need to assemble the bike myself, the shop sounds like they will not hassle me about it and will let me use a trueing stand, bike stand and if needed cable cutters (all other necessary tools will be in my tool kit),
the day after I pick up the bike, the two of us are starting the ride to San Diego - so I will do all maintenance and the bike will only see Bicycle Express again, if I ride through San Jose on a future vacation.
Bicycle Express was pretty clueless about Ortlieb panniers. But none of the other shops I talked to, were going to be able to order them at a better price than REI sells them for $308. That turned out to be a good thing, since I lucked out on a 15% discount and free shipping from Probikekit.com with free shipping. Total cost for Ortlieb back-roller classics and Ortlieb front-roller classics $201.43. And it will give me time to play with packing and weighting of the panniers.
Again, thanks for the help guys.