So to start off with, yesterday I made some decent progress. I knocked out about 30 pages of reading yesterday along with buying two cheap analog phones to test out POTS dial-peers using the PSTN. Today however was a complete mess, I wouldn't say I didn't learn anything but I made it through 1/2 a page of reading! The rest was spent troubleshooting Layer1 and 2 issues with just about every WIC card I had. From the FXS card that wasn't compatible with the Cisco 2821's all the way to ISDN layer two issues with my PRI configuration.
I gave up on PRI for now and went to T1 CAS but even that gave me a lot of issues. I spent an hour trying to get one analog phone to talk to each other, something that should be rather simple. I eventually got one end to call the other but not the other way around. It took another twenty minutes to figure out that the E&M signaling type was mismatched on both ends. Somehow I blew out my entire T1 configuration on both ends (I was frustrated to say the least) and spent another hour getting the configurations just right so that the routers were able to match dial-peer configurations to their respective ports.
I pretty much wasted 3 hours on a simple configuration but I guess in the end I gained some troubleshooting experience. I just 10 minutes ago was able to make a call to both analog phones from both sites. I'm using the PSTN router as my remote site for now since I don't have a 2800 compatible spare FXS card or a spare $150 to purchase one. I'm 43 pages in to the book so far, I'm hoping to make up for lost progress tomorrow.