I also don't want a super automated distro like ubuntu because one of the reasons I want to try linux is to learn a bit more about how operating systems work.
Even with (k)ubuntu, there'll be enough things for you to play with / fix / mess with (and perhaps destroy so badly that it needs a reinstall) to start learning about linux. For a first install, I thoroughly recommend it (see my panel at the left).
As weibullguy says, you can always switch distros when you become more confident or would like to be fancy-pants and bleeding-edge, but it is kinder on yourself to start with a disto where most
things work most
of the time. Even with kubuntu, there'll still be enough for you to play with, and linux is quite different from windows. Trust me on this. But I haven't used windows at home since win98, and I now hate those computers at work that force me to work "the windows way".
Consider yourself as a "learner driver". What kind of car should I advise you to learn with? A small, & very fast Mercedes (you'll maybe kill yourself quite quickly), or a wreck that has a faulty oil pump, and will fail after 5Km, if it even starts ? You need an in-between.
So, for starters, go for an "easy" distro. Play with it. Learn how it works. Break it a few times (I did in my earlier days, you learn a lot trying to fix it!). If you then still feel you need to be challenged further, go for something else (Linux From Scratch - LFS?
). Start simply, then work up to what you need.
Welcome to linux & LQ!