First the bad news - I used the Nero Clean-up Tool to uninstall everything and then re-installed Nero 18.104.22.168, along with upgraded NeroVision Express. Unfortunately, the problem still exists - everything works fine, but as soon as I insert a dvd thats been recorded on, my Liteon dvd drive becomes invisible and I have to re-boot to bring it back. At this point, I'm throwing in the towel on this one. I may just add an external usb dvd recorder (NOT Liteon as they've been no help in this).
The really good news is that 22.214.171.124 is transcoding about 3 times faster than 126.96.36.199.8. What used to take 3 hours is now only about 1 hour. An unexpected and pleasant surprise.