This story was written for Kid Rock fan club members, and posted at the fan club...so the parts that I refer to 'you' as a group, relate those fan club members. It is written speaking to fan club members, more or less. :)
Kid Rock's Chillin The Most Cruise - Chapter 2, Tampa Pre-Parties.
My son picked me up at my home at 7 AM Wednesday morning on his way to town for his work day. By the time I had a variety of tasks and chores done prior to leaving for the cruise, it was 3 AM...my alarm needed set for 5 AM, so I thought what the hell, I'll never sleep any way due to anticipation of the flight and cruise, so never went to bed or sleep the 24 hours prior to my son picking me up. My son drove me to town, but once in town I transferred luggage and myself to my daughters vehicle, she then drove me the additional hour's drive to Kansas City's International Airport. I didn't want my son to miss part of his work day, and though my daughter works as well, it wasn't as critical for her to miss work as it is my son.
Below is a photo my daughter took of me once arriving at KCI. I had not flown in 20 years, and then had only flown twice in life, so this would be my third flight in life, first in 20 years, and it was sort of a big deal to us, haha.
Many of you are aware of my special bond over the last several years with my young mutual Kid Rockin friend Dillon, of whom has been battling terminal brain cancer since the age of 5. He will turn 18 this May 28th, a miracle by the grace of God. Dillon's brain tumor's are no longer in remission, and have been active again for the past 2 years. Traditional Chemo is not working, so he will begin a new research chemo in about 4 weeks. Due to his cancer and chemo port, he is unable to travel outside of the U.S. in case of medical emergency.
The Kid Rock Chillin The Most Cruise was announced late last August, and I knew shortly thereafter that I would be going. Dillon has said since August, that he will experience the cruise through me, with reading my story of cruise experiences that I was to write upon my return. He told me several times over the last eight months, that he will be with me in heart and spirit, and I know that he indeed was. In the photo of me outside of KCI Airport, please note my beautiful necklace, of which was a 2008 Christmas gift from Dillon. I wore the necklace specifically knowing it represented Dillon in spirit, and the stone lays near my heart once the necklace is in place around my neck.
In Chapter 4 of my story, covering cruise day 3, Saturday...I will tell of some difficult moments for me emotionally at Kid Rock and TBT's concert held in the ships Paris Lounge, relating to Dillon and myself when Kid Rock began performing his classic 1998 hit, "Only God Knows Why". My emotions led to some very touching priceless moments shared with Jason Krause...the bass guitar player for Kid Rock's band since 1998, as well as Kid Rock, and a couple of my Kid Rock related friends. It will be a difficult part of my story to tell, but it's important I tell and share it, for readers to comprehend some of the magic that happened upon that ship.
My flight arrived in Tampa around 5 PM. Arlene was to meet me at the luggage claim, her flight from NYC arriving about an hour before mine. As I made my way to the luggage claim area I saw Arlene leaning against a pole, recognizing her right away from photos. Though Arlene and I have known each other for 7 years, having become Kid Rock friends through posting at the former Kid Rock fan club KRAA...this was the first time we had met in person. It amazes me how well we can get to know each other and become comfortable as friends with people we have never met simply by posting together over the years sharing a mutual interest or passion, such as the case with Kid Rock friends. I was immediately comfortable with Arlene, as if I'd spent as much time around her in real life as I have my local friends.
From the airport we took a shuttle van to the Marriott, checked in, then headed for the USO Benefit Pre-Cruise Party to be held at the Marriott's rooftop pool area. It was close to 7 PM by that point, and that particular pre-cruise party was to last only until 8 PM. Many had already made their way to the other pre-parties at the Hot Tuna and Gaspars Grotto, but I was to meet up with my friend Ricky at the USO Benefit Pool Party, as he and his friend Donny were sharing the hotel room with Arlene and I. Ricky and I also became good friends several years ago through Kid Rock's former KRAA fan club. I consider Ricky one of my best Kid Rockin buddies, he's like family to me...a younger brother so to speak.
Ricky is also a fellow NFL fan, as much a diehard fan of his Minnesota Vikings as I am my Kansas City Chiefs. We give each other a hard time throughout the season, razzing one another, haha. He had more to razz me about last season than I he, and he often reminds me of where Jared Allen now calls home, haha. Ricky's wife doesn't enjoy Kid Rock's music to the extent Ricky does, so she rarely attends Kid's concerts with Ricky, which is why Ricky brought his friend Donny along.
While standing around the pool looking for Ricky, several people recognized me from my profile pics at Kid Rock's community fan club, or from Facebook, and introduced themselves. I can't remember all the names and am therefore unable to mention each person I met. I am sorry if you are someone I met and are reading this, I enjoyed meeting each of you, I'm just not good with remembering many names at once, haha. At one point someone came up from behind and said my name, and as I turned around I saw my dear friend Ricky's familiar face! I was elated and yelled Ricky with much joy while latching on to him with a big bear hug giving him face cheek kisses!
Although Ricky & I have kept in touch over the years via phone, email, posting...I had not seen him since Kid Rocks Lazy MFer Tour in June of 2005. Several of us Kid Rockin friends met up for the three Southern Shows on that tour, which took place consecutively...Chattanooga Friday night, Birmingham Saturday night, and Atlanta Sunday. Gosh...five years had passed, it seemed like yesterday, but also a lifetime ago since I had seen Ricky. Since y'all can't see me behind this screen, I will tell you that I'm tearing up while typing this. Those who become my friends in heart remain such for life, and it was so wonderful to see and spend time with Ricky again, I truly love and miss him like I would a family member.
Saying goodbye to Ricky and his friend Donny Sunday night was difficult, and I choked up with tears. Ricky said we will see each other sooner next time, saying 3 years instead of 5, haha. Ricky later clarified he was mistaken, once Kid Rock and Sixthman cruise organizer's announced that due to the inaugural success of this first cruise, there would be a second Kid Rock Cruise next April, and every year thereafter providing all went as well as the previous years cruise and the cruise was still in demand selling out. Ricky said he will see me on next years cruise, hahaha.
Once meeting Ricky and Donny, they went to get their luggage and take it up to our room. While waiting for their return, a couple sitting at the lobby bar recognized me and introduced themselves...Lady Viper aka Susan and her husband. It was great meeting them! I sat at the bar a bit chatting with them until Ricky and Donny returned to the lobby...then Arlene, me, Ricky and Donny went to the Marriotts Champion's Sports Bar & Grill to get a bite to eat. Another mutual Kid Rock friend was on her way to meet us at the Marriott, then go to the Hot Tuna Night Club with us...Nikki. It had been since the Southern Shows that Ricky and I had seen Nikki also. Arlene use to see Nikki quite often when she still lived in her native NYC. Nikki now lives in Florida near Tampa, so she was able to meet up with us, though not going on the Cruise. Another mutual friend originally from NYC also now living in the Tampa area, Victoria aka Shady, was to meet us too, but a family matter came up and she was unable to join our Wednesday night 'old skool former fan club' reunion.
After eating we old skool Kid Rock friends walked about a half mile to the Hot Tuna Night Club, where one of the pre-cruise parties was being held. Many fellow cruisers I have posted with at KRC and FB over the years...were also at the Hot Tuna, but I had not met in person, as most are members of the newer fan club. As well, many I had not posted with, nor was familiar with, but knew me too...saying they don't post, but read my posts and blogs. I was surprised and overwhelmed some by how many fellow cruisers over the five days of the cruise approached saying they recognized and knew me by name, due to my pic's and posting at the fan club, as well as at Facebook. Everyone I met was very complimentary with comments about my posting, stories, blogs, photos. Although I can not remember all the names and mention each in my story....I remember each face, and thank each of you I met sincerely who may be reading this. I truly was flattered, yet humbled too and appearing shy as a result...if that makes sense, haha.
I told Arlene and Ricky...it's the long hair they recognize me by, so by the 3rd day I put it in a ponytail wearing my Kid Rock ballcap and sunglasses...nope, I was still recognized, haha. It's all good, I was just getting embarrassed by the recognition and my friends teasing me about it, haha. Ricky, Arlene, Donny, a couple others...in jest teased about how people approached saying, "you're Connie Jo, I recognize you from your photos, and am so glad I finally get to meet you". Ricky joked the next day saying , "you're an internet wh**e!"...while I was talking to my daughter on my cell, telling her how much fun we had at the Hot Tuna, including meeting many people who knew me from posting. My daughter heard Ricky and said, did someone just call you a 'wh*re'? I laughed and told her it was Ricky joking. Warning y'all...only someone as close to me as Ricky is can call me a wh**e in any aspect and my response be one of laughter, hahaha.
Another highlight while at the Hot Tuna was meeting up with Alicia aka Ali and Annie, also long time posting friends from our former KRAA fan club days...both are true beauties! I didn't post as much with Annie over the years as I have Ali, but it was great meeting both, and both are genuine sweethearts! Neither of their husbands joined them on the cruise, I believe they decided to make it a girls get away only, haha.
They had a DJ at the Hot Tuna who played many Kid Rock songs for us to dance to, and I had a blast dancing and head banging the night away, hahaha. We all had a blast! A live band also performed for an hour or so, and though they were good, I would have preferred the DJ and Kid Rock's songs all night long, haha. Arlene and Nikki decided to walk back to the hotel early, as Nikki had to be at work the next morning, and Arlene was a bit tired. Ricky, Donny, & I stayed at the Hot Tuna until about 1:30 AM, drinking beer, laughing, dancing...then returned to the Marriott Sports Bar, nibbled on some appetizers, then I headed to the room. I met Angie aka Rock n Roll Stroll on my way up to our room, though I did not talk to her long, as by that point I was a bit buzzed, wore out, and ready for my head to hit the pillow, haha. I'm grateful I did get to briefly meet her in person...I would have been upset had I not ever seen her, and I never ran into her on the cruise ship.
The pics below were taken while we were at the Marriott or Hot Tuna, and tell more of the story, hahaha. My next chapter will be of my day one cruise experience, including the picture being taken with Kid Rock, his response to the gift I gave him, of which later became somewhat famous to cruisers, though don't think I needed more attention drawn to my name, HA! Y'all are gonna give me a really swollen head, hahaha. :)
The first photo taken of my cruise experience, with the morning sun in my sleep deprived eyes, haha. This is me preparing to board a plane at KCI headed for Tampa. My daughter drove me to Kansas City International Airport, a 1 1/2 hr drive from my home in the country. I've previously mentioned this, but for those who may have missed it elsewhere mentioned...the beautiful sterling and stone necklace I'm wearing was a 2008 Christmas gift from Dillon. An American Native artist handcrafted the necklace, and Dillon bought it at a St. Judes Charity Fundraising Auction it had been donated to by the artist. I wore the necklace as a gesture to take Dillon with me on the cruise in spirit, and the stone in the necklace lays naturally close to my heart as well. I took it off when the partying in Tampa began, as I was afraid dancing & partying might bring harm to it.
This one's a bit blurry, but this was at the Marriott's Sports Bar eating prior to walking to the Hot Tuna. From left to right are Donny, Ricky, Nikki, Arlene and me standing.
The entrance front to the Hot Tuna Night Club in Tampa:
This pic was taken at the Hot Tuna, my newest buddy Donny, me, and a bestest buddy Ricky...this is one of my favorite pics of the entire cruise! Even before I met Donny, and Ricky told me he was bringing a buddy from his hometown on the cruise...I knew I'd love Donny, as any friend of Ricky's has to be loveable! He put me in a neck lock, hahaha!
While at the Hot Tuna Ricky was texting back & forth with our mutual buddy Kevin, aka Kevrock, who had to cancel plans to be aboard, his priorities being with his daughter and her soccer games. Kevin texted Ricky and asked him to take pic's of womens boobs...Ricky told him there were no bared boobs, but Ali was showing cleveage, so Kevin asked Ricky to have me take a pic of Ali's cleveage, hahaha...that's our Kevin! This is Ali's cleveage, and Ricky's version of Kid Rock's Bad A$$ Eagle tatt taunting Kevin partially blocking cleveage in the pic, HA!
Here we are...old skool KRAA friends of 7-8 years...Annie, me, Ricky, and Alicia aka Ali!
Ali and Annie at the Hot Tuna with a Kid Rock Promo for Jim Beam:
Please forgive me if you're in this photo and I can't place you by name...I met so many over the entire cruise, and names became confused somewhat with faces. I do know BJ in this pic, and if I remember correctly, believe one of the girls is Meredith, founder of the Eye Candy Friday group at FB. Heck, I'm doing good to remember me...oh yeah, I'm the one on the right end, haha. Someone pinned a flashing button on me, declaring me the winner of the dance contest...which I didn't even know a contest was happening. Heck, I just joined in dancing to the DJ playing Kid Rock, hahaha. :)
A sure sign it's time to call it a night and walk back to the Marriott, hahaha. In Donny's defense, he swears I moved the chair from where he thought it was, and that's why he fell...well, I swear I don't know what in the hell he's talking about, cause I don't remember moving any chair! Truth be told...the beer knows the real story! LOL We had some good laughs, hahaha. He did manage to wobble his way back to the Marriott...dropped his bottle of beer along the way, shattered all over the sidewalk...but he quickly told Ricky and me to keep walking as if we didn't know who did it, or what happened...LMAO! Oh, I wanna go back, and miss my Kid Rockin partying buddies so much already! :(
Okay my beloved Chiefs friends...time for me to hit my pillow, haha...I'll post Chapter 3, boarding day...with more pic's tomorrow some time. It only get's better! Hey, I'm in this pic...can you find me? Hint, I'm towards the back of the crowd, right of the stage. This is the pic of which Kid Rock summoned everyone to the ships Lido Deck over the ships intercom...so he could have his photographer take a "family photo", hahahaha :)