I tested the circuit breaker, no problem there
I tested the wire exiting the house, no problem there - tested with a
bulb not a meter
I tested some outlets in the garage with a bulb, very dim light -
orange glow was all I got.
I went back to the garage and tried to wrap my head around the wiring,
where did it come into the garage from the underground conduit.
after a couple days of an hour here and there, I decided it was time to
break into the wall and find the junction from the house. I picked the
wall, based on my understanding of the wiring, got out my saw, and then
wifey came to look, she said "wait, isn't there something there? I
checked and indeed there was a junction box hidden in the wall under a
faceplate, covered and hidden behind a couple years worth of house
discards that get stored in the garage.
I removed the faceplate, tested the wires (always turning off the
cicuit breaker before touching wires...) , same problem, dim bulb.
Then, I saw it, a spare/unused wire in the bundle, what if
I swapped the spare with the neutral or hot wire from the house? would
it work? was just one wire damaged?
In short yes, the neutral one was bad, now the spare (blue) is
functioning as neutral, no wires to pull , no yard to dig up
life is good, thanks all