I finally got it to work!!!
After reading this: http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/linux/library/l-fireboot.html?ca=dgr-lnxw09FireBoot
article on booting Linux off of an external firewire or usb drive I see that the author was doing something pretty similar to what I was trying to do.
In method 2 he already had all the modules compiled into the kernel just as VL does. He uses a custom initrd file. The problem ened up being that there needs to be a certain delay in order for the SCSI bus to be scanned and the root device to be found.
Also my partitioning sceme is a little more complicated than usual. I had at one time been booting Ubuntu directly off the external usb drive(set the BIOS to boot off the external drive first). I created a /boot partition on the external drive for that purpose. I finally switched back to booting off of the internal ide drive and I had also installed Kubuntu on it as well so I created a /boot partition on it as well.
So now if I'm booting up Kubuntu on the internal drive the vmlinuz kernel file for it is in /dev/hda2 and if I'm booting up either Ubuntu or VectorLinux the vmlinuz kernel files for these are at /dev/sda1. The menu.lst file that is used is in /dev/hda2/grub.
I booted up VL which I had installed on my internal ide drive(on /dev/hda11). After booted up I then did the following:
1. cd /boot
2. As root: mkinitrd -c -k 22.214.171.124
3. This creates a file named initrd.gz which is the compressed version of the directory "initrd-tree" which is also created.
4. cd /boot/initrd-tree
5. Edit the file "rootdev" and change "/dev/hda11" to "/dev/sda6" (/dev/sda6 is the external usb drive partition that I want VL to reside on)
6. Edit the file "wait-for-root" and change the value "1" to "10" This gives 10 seconds for the usb drive to become available.
7. cd /boot
8. As root: mkinitrd (No options, this compresses the initrd-tree directory into the file initrd.gz file)
9. I then copied the initrd.gz file over to my boot partition /media/sda1/VectorLinux
10. I then edited my menu.lst file which is located on the internal ide drive in hda2
Here is the VectorLinux entry:
title VectorLinux, kernel 126.96.36.199
kernel /VectorLinuxBoot/vmlinuz-188.8.131.52 root=/dev/sda6
After saving the menu.lst file I shutdown VL which was running from /dev/hda11.
Once my grub menu came back up I selected VL again and this time it booted right up from the external usb drive!
So it looks like my first approach to trying to compile modules was totally unnecessary as they were already in the kernel. All that was needed was a new initrd file with an extra delay added.