Because I started this thread, I thought I should give an update on how my decision went. I decided to get my frame built up for a Rohloff, and have no regrets at all.
I'm a daily bicycle commuter (10 miles each way) and did a 700 mile tour this summer through Germany and the Netherlands. With the first snow I've finally retired the new bike for the winter and pulled out my rusty old diamondback with studded tires, and I miss the Rohloff already.
The noise issue has been a non-issue for me. At times, it's been a plus as I'm coasting up on a pedestrian and they can here me before I ding my little bell, but it's not significantly louder than other freewheels.
For gearing, I went to the absolute lowest ratios possible and my old knees have thanked me for that. I tend to pedal as slow as 4 mph uphill, and the Rohloff has handled that just fine. On the top end, pedalling maxes out a bit above 20 mph. That's fine by me, faster than that and I'm usually coasting.
Being able to shift at a stop turned out to be a bigger advantage than I expected. Yes, we all know to shift in advance of a stop... but sometimes a car or pedestrian does appear in front of us... or we forget. It's kind of magical to be able to spin into any gear.
I was nervous about the grip shifter, but the triangular design has been very easy to handle, even with heavy cold weather gloves or heavy rain.
My chain life is definitely improved thanks to the lack of stress put onto it.
It was interesting to notice how many cyclists in Germany noticed my Rohloff. Many were surprised that Americans had heard of it. In many cases it was the first thing they noticed about the bike.
Summing up, yes it was expensive. But I'm satisfied that the price is fair for the quality of the unit and I expect to get many years of service and happy riding.