Thanks again everyone. Lots to think about here. I am definitely going to check out every distro mentioned here and try them as LiveCDs.
After looking at Mint and Ubuntu I opted for Mint 7 (something about it just struck me I guess). It installed with no problem at all, and activating my wireless was just a mouse-click to download the Broadcom driver.
I also burned an image of Crunchbang linux (yes, the name attracted me) and put that on a separate laptop. Again it was pretty simple.
Now I've been looking through all of these other distros people are mentioning and they look pretty cool as well. I think I'll make a few more liveCDs and just play with various distros for a few weeks at a time.
Nice to see such a great community here - I appreciate the help and feedback.
I'm looking forward to settling on a distro I like and moving away from Windows. So far I can't complain about linux at all. I see in retrospect the mistake I made starting with Gentoo. Maybe I'll get to where I know enough to try that one again someday