I finally got the post above working rather late last night, and with sleep/work/kids this is the first time I've been able to check status of the question. I appreciate the feedback. Once done with what I have going on I'll go back and reply to the post with my changes as I had to tweak it a bit, probably due to the age of the post and the fact that my back end is making the login call, so I had to pass some cookies around.
Now off to publish the forum, get it on my prod server, and read docs/figure out how to re-skin it!
Over all I'm pretty happy with the way the setup and customization has gone, taken a while, but if I had to do it again it would be quick.