thank you so much for sharing your opinions! Truly appreciated it..
I DID end up buying the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II this weekend when I went to L.A. for a shoot. I came across an Ad by Samy's and they had an awesome NO TAX sale the whole weekend. Additionally, I negotiated a better price on top of it! got it for well under my $2200 budget which gave me more than enough left for a new Lowepro 180 AW Messenger bag ! :-)
Bottomline, I love this lens and the images from it are stellar! Again thanks for all the recommendations!