Nope, no go, switching carriers would entail getting some relatives and friends to switch as well, free minutes for us would end up costing them extra minutes where now it's all in-network free minutes. We're talking lots of minutes here, so no go.
I did visit several local stores today and dug a little deeper, near as I can figure from what I was told is that either USCC or RIM is installing new chips of some sort. Apparently the entire state here is in short supply, at least for my carrier. I got put on a couple of waiting lists and a small shipment is due in hopefully next week sometime.
Thanks for the comments and the welcome.
While waiting for a phone to come in I'm going to start shopping around for an 8gb SD card and maybe a carry case secure enough for bicycling and motorcycling use.