gene i can understand your pain.  one of the reasons that i don't necessarily 
like sudo systems.

one of the first things that i do when i have a sudo system, ubuntu, lmde, 
raspbian, is to 'sudo su' and then 'passwd' to actually set a root password.

i have found that this has remedied the situation that you have described here. 
 with doing the above you wouldn't have to mount the sd somewhere else, you 
just make a new password for root.

i hope that this helps some for future reference.

take care

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