No problem. If you've got the time and patience, I'd recommend you take on the rebuild yourself. Paying a shop will be fairly cost prohibitive.Thanks for your input. Parts availability should not be too big of an issue because I am pretty positive any noises I hear are bearing related. Also nice to hear a press isn't essential. I did not find rebuilding my transfer case to be hard, so I am not too scared to dive into this trans. I'm really just looking for other things to trouble shoot before I tear it down.
Hopefully this weekend my dad will have some free time and can pop the transmission tunnel off and check the top cover situation. If that is not the issue, then at least I can get a head start on sourcing parts or getting some quotes from a shop to rebuild it. I still have a goal of being able to wheel it this summer but a busy schedule and lack of funds are making that quite the mission.
I will say that the bearings in the SM420 and SM465 are extremely robust and I've never personally seen a failed one assuming they have lubrication. HOWEVER I have seen a 1st/reverse gear with significant damage on the hub surface. It's not a syncro (because they're not synchronized on 1st/reverse) and I don't have my manual in front of me unfortunately. Essentially it's a hub "cone" and on the later year transmissions (which you think yo have) GM switched from bronze to some sort of aluminum compound which didn't hold up nearly as well. It can gall, seize and get very sticky. When I've rebuilt later year models, I've used the older assembly with the better bronze parts.
It's possible this could be your issue. I can send attach some parts of the damaged part later if you'd like. It's on my wall of shame