Got SQL Server 2008 Express up and running. Had to go in and putz with the registry to get Windows to realize "Oh… you really DON'T have SQL Server Express 2005 installed!".
Once the registry was cleared, I was able to reinstall 2008 with no problems. The backups I made immediately before hand imported just fine. Still trying to learn how to implement full text indexing so I can start on a search system.
I also installed express on my desktop, so now I can not only develop without touching the server, I can use the nightly backups locally so that testing can be done against a larger set of data.