Rainfurrest and Seattle (Sept 28th – 30th)

So, back at the beginning of this Ride Report, somebody mentioned that this was going to be “one of the weird ones”, and this is the point where I prove that person right. If it hasn’t already been sufficiently proven.

Furries.

What the hell are furries? The simplest explanation is that it’s a subculture about animals with human attributes (classic examples are just about every animated children’s character ever made, all the way to Fritz the Cat and beyond). In the loosest sense, anything from a chick wearing cat ears to a guy who’s seen The Lion King over a thousand times both fit under this umbrella.

A longer explanation would go into the history of the subculture, from when it branched off from its scifi roots back in the 70s and 80s and its members wrote each other actual paper letters to express their fondness for Omaha the Cat Dancer. Niche magazines started publishing compilations of furry content – stories, comics, art. With the advent of the internet, the conversation moved to BBSes and forums, eventually leading to actual real-life gatherings. Small at first, they’ve since grown in number and size. Today, the largest yearly convention (Anthrocon, in Pittsburgh), has over 5,000 attendees. There are conventions all over the world.

Modern-day furries as a whole seem to be an interesting stew consisting of creativity, artistry, costuming, introversion, and escapism. Everybody is interested in the subculture for different reasons. Some are artists, some like to collect art. Some make costumes for a living. Some like wearing the costumes (fursuits), to get attention from others, or to allow themselves to become someone different for a time. Almost all furries have a personal character that they identify with, and a decent amount of money changes hands for people to get unique art of their character. Here’s mine (Art by oCe):

For the most part, the furries I’ve met are reasonably well-adjusted individuals, and I’ve become close friends with a few. Others I try to avoid like a contagious disease – usually the ones who are socially inept, clingy, obsessive, have poor hygeine, or don’t understand boundaries. Every subculture (especially nerds, if you’ve ever been around Trekkies or cosplayers you know what I’m talking about) has a few unpleasant members, and I’m happy that they are a minority.

As far as my interest in this subculture goes, I’ve been loosely affiliated with these weirdos for over a decade, and I’m interested in the creative aspects far more than the social ones. I do art myself, mostly small sculptures, but I’m at least passable at drawing. I used to do commissions – work-for-hire, but I don’t have the time anymore. I do enjoy meeting other artists who I admire and appreciating their work in person.

So, when the timing came together in such a way that my luggage and everything was done just in time for a convention called Rainfurrest, in Seattle, I decided to give it a go. If nothing else, this would be a good opportunity to test my setup on the open road. I managed to arrange some floor space at the Hilton, $60 for the entire weekend, and I set out on my journey.

I packed more than I needed for a hotel stay. If I’m going to bother going to Washington, I’m damn well going to explore while I’m there! I’d set my sights on the Olympic Peninsula for afterwards, and packed all of the necessary camping gear.

I hopped on the I-5. Wow, the bike handles A LOT differently with the luggage! In some ways better, in some ways worse. I am more of a “sail” in strong winds, but it feels a lot more stable, especially in corners. With the weight of the luggage, I am approaching the range that the springs were designed for. I suspect this might be why it handles better. Occasionally I would change lanes and experience a strange “jiggling”. I’m not sure if the steering is a bit overly-sensitive or if the “tail is wagging the dog”.

The trip was uneventful. I crawled through Portland traffic and discovered that my stopping distance had increased considerably with the extra inertia. Eventually I reached Seattle, and after getting turned around a few times, managed to find the hotel around 8 pm. Convention registration was already closed, so I just wandered around aimlessly and got to know some people.

I was introduced to a gentleman who was doing watercolor and was surprised at how compact his setup was. It made me consider that maybe I don’t have to give up art on the road…

Did I mention there were a bunch of people dressed like this?

I went to sleep fairly early, and got up early the next morning. Today the fun would begin.

I helped myself to several cups of free coffee at the Breakfast and Cartoons panel. Eventually I got my registration sorted out, and wandered around the dealer’s den, asking about art techniques and saying hi to a few friends. One artist I met was using what I assumed was watercolor, but it was gouache! She was a huge fan, mentioning that you can do both watercolor-like thin washes and more opaque flat colors as well. Interesting!

Then came the high point. The fursuit parade. The costumes came out in force. I wished I had some acid.

From the cute:

To the bizzare (It’s Diglett from Pokemon):

To the downright terrifying:

They all gathered outside.

It was interesting to see the vast difference in style, construction technique, and species. Some people preferred a more “sports mascot” style toony character:

While some went for realism:

Or horror:

It takes dedication to wear these costumes. A lot of them are made by the people wearing them, the others are purchased from others who spend weeks to make them. A good costume from a well-known maker can set you back $2-3k, and most furries are fairly broke. They’re difficult to wear – swelteringly hot with very poor ventilation and visibility.

I spent a lot of time with a new friend, one of my roommates. Her name is Max, and this was her first convention. The costume she purchased was not the best, some of her seams ripped, and parts were very poorly constructed, but she had a blast wearing it. She spent a lot of time beatboxing for other people and running around like a maniac. She’s the blue and pink thing in this picture:

I sat through the variety show which was fairly disappointing. Mediocre performances, some downright terrible.

Later, I found some non-furries who had stumbled across this event and were extremely interested in what the hell it was all about.

I showed them around, and eventually they invited me to sit down with them at the bar and have a chat. They were writers from Hawaii. I explained the furry thing to the best of my ability, and they asked me a LOT of questions, but seemed to really think it was great. They said that it was a lighthearted contrast to the high school reunion they’d just been to. I offered them my convention booklet as a memento.

I was happy that they left before the EMTs showed up. According to the rumor mill, some guy was supposedly hopped up on “the drugs” and was streaking in the pool area, possibly getting into a fight with somebody. It just isn’t a furry convention unless the paramedics are called at least twice.

I drank an overly-expensive cocktail at the bar, and hit up the dance for a while. A photo of furries doing the YMCA was required.

I spun poi, danced around, and generally had a good time.

On Sunday there was poor communication and we weren’t sure if we were leaving or not, so I packed up the bike, said goodbye to people, and left mid-afternoon. Overall I had a decent time – not as great as other conventions, but it was good to get out of the house. I’m not in a rush to go back.

Since I painted my bike, I needed a new annual pass decal to put on it. The internet informed me that there was a USFS ranger desk inside the REI flagship store, which I found bizzare. After picking through the one-way roads and eventually finding the place, I discovered that it had a small forest growing around it. Neat! I got my replacement decal and headed northward.

In search of the infamous “Fremont Troll”, I found my way up to the Fremont district. I walked through the remnants of the Sunday market, and passed this:

It just seems like they are trying too hard to be “unique”…

I found the troll! It was huge!

So of course I climbed all over it!

I ate dinner at an awesome little vegan/gluten free cafe. I know somebody’s going to laugh, but they had some of the best potato soup I’d ever had, vegan/gluten free or not, and the roll that came with it was delicious. Everything was extremely flavorful, and the sea salt and spices in the roll made it stand on its own.

I made my way back to my bike, passing this dino-topiary on the way.

As the sun set I left Seattle, bound for the Olympic Peninsula. Perhaps I was just really tired, but this sign made me laugh:

I turned off the 101 to a side road which eventually ended in gravel. After going south toward Staircase and being assaulted with no camping signs, I went the other direction. The official campgrounds were all closed for the winter already (not that I’d want to pay their fees anyways), so I eventually found a little clearing off to the side of the road. I set up my tent near the remnants of a fire pit and a nasty old recliner and passed out.

The bike handled surprisingly well on the gravel, much better than it ever did unloaded, I didn’t even have to air down my tires to avoid feeling like I was rollerskating on marbles. Even the washboarded sections didn’t seem to phase it as much; it bounced around a lot less. Very interesting.

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