The story has a happy ending. I STILL cant run input as it insists it is old firmware. But, after fighting with the damn thing till I explode, I hit the trigger, and voila. But, it is running in reverse. So, I rerun motor and reverse. All good. I turn it off, and back on. No joy, reverse again. So, I fight with it and finally, both motors run the right way, and I have a remote.
I can only think that the remote was the thing that lost uart signal. As when it ran properly, I fired up the old remote and nothing. MAYBE.
That vesc tool is as buggy as any software I have EVER fought with. I even sought out an older version. No luck there either.
On the plus side, I know almost all there is to know about vesc tool.