Thanks for all the help in this thread. When I started, I was misled by "experts" at my LBS into things like 29" wheels and carbon fiber frames. Since this thread has an uninformed first post, please visit my new thread where my questions are up to date and in line with what I have learned from the real experts here.
I created the new thread since things like Carbon Fiber were still being discussed long after I settled on steel. The first post was generating confusion.
Everything -positive or negative- that has been said so far has been carefully read and re-read.
Thanks again and I'll see you in the new thread!