i received another message from roku support asking what the screens looked like that i was receiving.
i decided to give it one more shot. this time with my camera in hand and shot each screen as it appeared.
guess what - the activation code screen popped up.
this is what the screens looked like:
i have no idea why it appeared this time, but it did. i ran to the pc and typed in the code and everything is working exactly like it should.
thanks for the responses.