In my opinion bhphotovideo.com has had the best customer service, although amazon is certianly reliable. My vote would be the 40D with the 17-85mm kit lens. It's a great camera with a bright viewfinder (essential to good photography), great autofocusing (helps a lot), better build (you won't have to "baby" your camera as much), and has a very simplistic control layout (that nosewheel and control button is absolutely a must to me). Of course investing in photography is no small task, but a 40D with a kit lens will better help you decide on any further purchases and is certianly capable of taking great photographs.
b&h: http://www.bhphotovideo.com …_EOS_40D_SLR_Digital.html
Some "get to know Canon facts":
EOS: stands for electro-optical systems, and is just Canon's way of calling it's autofocus series of cameras (ex: EOS 5D)
EF: Canon's lenses that are designed for all canon DSLR bodies
EF-S: Canon's designation for lenses that are only designed for rebels, 20,30,and 40Ds
Full-frame (FF): most digital cameras have a sensor that is physically smaller than the image size of 35mm film. Canon's crop bodies like the 40D crops the field of view of each lens by 1.6 and 1 series bodies w/o the 's' designation crops by 1.3
cross-type focus sensors: just need to know, they're good, the more you have, the more accurate the autofocus.
Ring-type USM vs. micro-type USM: stands for ultra-sonic motor and is the autofocus motor within every EF or EF-S lens. Ring-type is much faster and more accurate (not to mention very quiet) whereas micro-type is more inexpensive, but a smidge slower.
L series lenses: Simple put, all L lenses (with very few exception) are very good pieces of optical precision work. They are generally very well built (able to take some accidental abuse), Generally have fixed apertures, and are often more expensive (you get what you pay for).
well that's it I suppose, just wanted to point that out (I am probably going to save this txt to help with my own use =)