thanks everyone for the recs and info. I took off the air intake hose and inspected... i also took the one off my 94 and put it on the 97... no change. i did a lot of reading here on mud on EGR over the weekend.... i learned waaay more than i ever thought i would about the topic from this site, which is not surprising and its so great to have a resource like mud with such a wealth of information and tech savvy members willing to help. Looking back, i should have dug into the EGR more from the beginning so thanks for the patience. Since i don't have to worry about emissions tests and nosey inspectors, the delete looks fairly straight forward and seems to have been done correctly. I will have an electrician friend inspect the wiring harness in greater detail. the smoke machine tester might be what the Dr. ordered... there has to be a vacuum leak somewhere that I'm not finding. i have replaced all of the vacuum lines that looked remotely suspect but will finish out replacing the rest of them in this process.