So, after waffling like a b***h on whether I should try to root and install a ROM ever again after the fiasco last time....I finally did it.
However, instead of relying on a root helper or ROM installer/updatger this time I did it manually. Why???
Because the first time I tried installing recovery and a ROM, I was referred to a very early version of droid root helper...that I felt installed a buggy 2.1 ROM. And when I tried to install another ROM I ran into nothing but problems. Then I tried to update the recovery image....and nearly s**t a brick...literally. Fortunately, I was eventually able resolve my problems...and when I had a "new phone" again...I swore off doing this ever again.
I continued to read tutorials and testimonials about rooting and installing this or that. And continued to see a trend. I would say nearly 75% of the problems were from people who used some sort of installer or program to do the heavy lifting (not really that heavy), and since they did not do the research and take the steps in ADB or Terminal...they usually had no idea what was wrong and had tons of trouble getting help. (Awefully familiar to my experience)
In my readings, I figured out exactly what step I screwed up on that had prevented me from fixing my problems myself (as well as why I could not update to a 2.0.1 ROM over a 2.1 ROM). More importantly, I learned what caused my problems in the first place. I would never blame this type of thing directly on the dev...instead I blame it on the lack of knowledge of the process when a n00b is referred to this type of very useful tool without any background research or knowledge.
In my case, I never learned the importance of making a COMPLETE nandroid backup including recovery....and so when I just pressed the buttons in the order insructed in the quick guide I found...I quickly had my new ROM...but had not prepared properly...and had no idea how to undo my snafu.
This time, I did everything via ADB and SHELL. Using copy and paste from Matth3w's Buggless Beast tutorial...I rooted, installed recover and flash image and had my phone ready for a ROM in maybe 10 mins? No errors...no crashes....no reboot issues...no problems.
Took another couple dys to take the plunge on installing a ROM. I was worried about stability...but then I read all the rave reviews on Smoked Glass...and said...f'it...if I dont like it I have a full backup. Installed the ROM system and boot...and in less than 5 mins the ROM was installed. I rebooted and walked away to go put my 11 month old baby to bed (and so I would not sit and stare at the long initial reboot that freaks everyone out). Came back down and violla...NEW PHONE!!!
I installed SetCPU...and am running smooth as glass (no pun intended) at 800 Mhz!
Thanks to everyone who took their time to put the complete instructions with most common mistakes in notes. REALLY helped. Especially Matth3w...BigLou....and AdamZ.
BTW...Matth3w I am with you on your crusade to not just refer people to a helper or installer without making sure they have fully had the opportunity to research and learn the options and risks.