Written by Jolt Squirrel

 

Preface

The vision of the Furry Raiders is to connect with other furries, whether it is by gathering in various spaces together to bond, or grand trips like these. Many hands pitched in together to make this trip work, and these many hands made some serious sacrifices to be here and pushed through with serious challenges during planning and in this story, as you will soon read. It is our hope that this story inspires you to venture into horizons that no other furry has dared to put on their fursuit and freely express themselves.

 

Arrivals

Well, where do we begin? The Raiders’ grand trip would go like this: spend the first half living it up in Las Vegas and the second half living on a houseboat in Lake Powell, a reservoir straddling between Arizona and Utah to see the majestic Rainbow Bridge. It began on July 4th and would go on up until July 12th. Circumstances dictate that not all of us would be arriving at the same time, but still have enough time to be present for the main draw. But first, we all have to arrive at Las Vegas. Foxler and the Colorado Crew took the long drive up from Colorado down here, making it to Las Vegas late afternoon on Independence Day. Mizu arrived the latest of us all flying in from Atlanta. Three Raiders outside of the USA were on this vacation. I myself being one of them, took to the skies and arrived having to miss the Independence Day fireworks and festivities, because of personal scheduling. Mikhail flew in from Canada and Terry from Sweden, although he landed at Denver to join Foxler and company.

 

After landing at Las Vegas McCarran airport, I finally met the legend himself – Foxler, and joining him, Kody. After settling in, I was introduced to the entourage – from Terry to Rolu, every Raider made a lasting impression that you’ll carry with you for ages. I also was introduced the next best mainstay on the trip - Scorch’s famous queso sauce, which, when paired with nachos, was an absolute delight. It felt absolutely surreal meeting everyone in the flesh having only relied on an icon projected on a screen and their voices, some I’ve never ever heard before.

 

Our accommodation in Las Vegas was the Wyndham Grand Desert, a glorious apartment suite furnished with a kitchen, capacity to accommodate 8 guests in one room, numerous swimming pools and no casino (shocker!) so you can avoid those resort fees! Location is perfect – close to the Las Vegas Strip by foot and easy enough to get to without being stuck in the Strip traffic, which you should avoid driving on whenever possible.

 

That Kind of Strip Show

All right, guys, get to your stations and look chill.

It’s well known that visitors to Las Vegas spend their evenings watching a show. But us? More on the watching part later, but we got hands on with the act, no stage involved. This idea fomented when we all lounged around the Wyndham’s luxurious room and asked an important question: what could we do that’s entertaining while in Las Vegas?

 

It's raining dollar bills, y'all!

Foxler, genius that he is, settled with calling in strippers to our room at the Wyndham and we all agreed. But first, the fursuits, because what kind of furry party would this be without Foxler, Kody, Terry, Kovu (OK, his is technically not a fursuit) and myself bringing out our fursuits? Our esteemed guests - two ladies and a gentleman, entered the room all incognito and their reaction? A lot of laughter at not knowing what they walked into. To get the party warmed up, we needed booze, lights, music and dancing. Tick, tick and tick. The dancing was provided by yours truly by request from the Raiders so they can shower me with money, and of course I obliged. Wowzers!

 

The gang, and the guests all know we cool

The stripper girls bared it all bit by bit for us Raiders, then one by one, fursuit or not, we got more hands on with the ladies. Of course, we didn’t forget that the gentleman put on a show for us too and as custom, made him work for those sweet dollars. It comes as no surprise that the fursuiters got the most time being smothered by the ladies. After all, they like the mystique that they didn’t know who was underneath the suit. As the party wrapped up, our room shook momentarily and we looked around wondering how it happened. Turns out our party was so wild we caused an earthquake in California. What? Oh, all right, California experienced a magnitude 7.1 earthquake that even a tremor could be felt way over in Las Vegas. Say goodbye to California! What happens in Las Vegas… ah, forget it. Now you know about the gigs we get up to since I’m writing this story.

 

Bustling with Activity

Where will the ball land? We shall see

So dawns another day the Raiders spent at Las Vegas. For myself at least, the day bustled with activity. Gathering a group of 6, we started off with Topgolf, which was fortunately located next door to the Wyndham Grand Desert. Topgolf is a fully fledged driving range enhanced with technology that enriches the golfing experience, heat defeating mist and even boasts a swimming pool of its own. Each of us took turns on the driving range, of course the 1 Wood being the favourite club of many. But the biggest surprise turned out to be Wine, whose long hits made us believe he may have the potential to be a golfer. I did inquire by email about wearing fursuits to play golf, but sadly, they recommended we not wear the heads. We were told by the staff not to wear masks when we asked, and this holds especially true during Halloween. Shame that you won’t get to see us golf in fursuit, but still, the experience was enjoyable and treated ourselves to some fantastic bites.

 

Tanks galore at Battlefield Vegas, pick your favourite and stand by it.

Rounding out this activity filled day, Mikhail, Wine and I took a trip to the gun range known as Battlefield Vegas. Non-Americans that get strangled with restrictive gun laws need a taste of the glorious Second Amendment, but even if you’ve got an itch to shoot something, this is the place to go to. With a Humvee picking us up at the Wyndham and taking us back, we all baked in the sun and the Vegas heat sitting on the flatbeds, but it was worth all the honks from traffic as the American flag flew proudly on the back. Battlefield Vegas is home to a museum of military surplus and ordinance, with tanks, road vehicles and helicopters parked on their front yard, and with the exception of the tanks, feel free to climb aboard. The main event saw each of us taking turns firing a magazine from a Colt Commando rifle, a fully automatic Uzi and a Glock 17 handgun. Each of the firearms had their own characteristic and were very satisfying to shoot. Looking at our shot groupings, I'd say we didn't do too bad all things considered. Let me tell you, it was a blast.

 

Late Hour Entertainment

Inside Planet Hollywood, an extravagant mall, casino, theater hotel all in one

Every visitor to Las Vegas has to experience nightlife on the Las Vegas Strip. It’s exuberant, flashy and absolutely chaotic, as traffic is in total gridlock and the famed Vegas showgirls were out on the streets catching the eyes of many revelers. Now a fursuit wouldn’t be out of place here, but we were in the heart of Summer. We just had “that” strip show, now how about a proper theatrical one? Lucky for us, there is one such show close by us at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. It is called V – The Ultimate Variety Show, which as its name suggests, consists of various performance acts ranging from circus classics, acrobatics, magic and comedy acts. Entertaining? Very much so, and I’m very certain that seeing a Las Vegas show may be somewhere on your bucket list.

 

The rest of the night we spent so casually, just strolling down the Las Vegas strip with not a care in the world. You can clearly see the Strip is jam-packed full of revelers, brimming with lights everywhere you look and chaotic, with street performers vying for your attention, photos and cash. While there is no shortage of dining options in Las Vegas no matter your budget, for whatever reason, it was Foxler’s bright idea to walk really far down the strip and settle for eating dinner at White Castle, known as America’s first burger chain. I’d never heard of this store before nor do I understand its niche appeal, but sliders? Serviceable, but there’s better options out in this part of town. Walking down the Las Vegas Strip, light show, street performers and all is fun, walking back… not so much.

 

Sky High Suiting

I dare say that the highlight of our time in Las Vegas was Foxler’s treat to go on a hot air balloon ride in fursuit. Two things made starting this a tad unpleasant: a total shortage of sleep and an early start before the crack of dawn to beat the desert heat. However, I was brimming with hype and adrenaline, so that point was somewhat moot. Mizu arrived in Las Vegas just in time to experience it, and during the lead up to it, we thought it was impossible to get him in the air that way. Nope! All up, a hot air balloon for 10 Raiders with Foxler, Kody, Terry and myself suiting up sounds like a total win. Our ride swung by the Wyndham quite early and the driver would take us first to their office to sign off some paperwork, then it’s off to the literal middle of nowhere. By that, I mean a pocket of desert in the California-Nevada state line one hour out of town as we watched the sun rise up.

 

What are YOU looking at? It's your turn to climb aboard like this, ya know?

One hour down the line, we finally stepped out of the vans to see two hot air balloons tipped over on their sides. One for just us Raiders, the second for another set of guests. Seeing it just makes you wonder: how do we even board the balloon in its current state and have it tipped over? Turns out, we needed to climb aboard the basket sideways while the gas would propel the balloon back upright. So who boarded first? The fursuiters, of course, and you better have one to join the cool corner, yo. Then the non-suiters got their own uncool side (just kidding) except we liberated Wine to the cool corner for weight balance.

 

How do we look, guys?

Moments passed as the burners kept pumping to tip the basket upright and ready for takeoff. And then, it happened. Four fursuits, six human Raiders and the pilot soared the open skies. From up high, sand, dry lakes, remote buildings all looked so small. Nothing short of spectacular especially in the early hours of the day. Imagine if, like Terry wished, that a hot air balloon could fly all the way to Area 51? But I digress, we were far too early for the proposed raid scheduled for September 20.

 

*bump* HIGH FIVE

Then comes the roughest part of the balloon ride: touching down. The pilot told us to brace for impact, and we all did just that in preparation. Moments passed, until bam! The balloon landed, tipped over, skidded forward, and all of us felt every bump and rock the balloon slid over. For the longest time, I held on for dear life while wondering if my ears were going to drag along the sands of the Nevada Desert. But all up, we made it out alive and without a scratch. We were told that the balloon left about a 120ft skidmark along the sand. Afterwards, treats and celebrations were in order with us being supplied water, champagne, juice, snacks and a certificate of flying with us signing our names on it. To add even more icing on the cake, the ride back into civilization was a total surprise. While Kody and Terry sat in the lap of comfort, the rest of us roughed it out in the back of the driver’s pickup truck. Terrain out here in the desert contains lots of harsh bumps and jumps, this would be an offroader’s dream. And even more roughing out was done, but this time in air conditioned comfort in a van. The drivers taking us home are total lunatics offroad, making the ride home fun.

 

Tonight, We Dine in Hell

Welcome to Hell's Kitchen. Dare you enter?

Since ours is a trip of overindulgence, we had better get our food game on. And so we all headed for Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen, Located at the Caesar’s Palace hotel in the Strip. If you’ve watched the namesake TV show which is headed by Gordon Ramsay himself, you’ll expect to see hustle and bustle in the kitchen, heated tempers, Ramsay’s yelling and as you would expect, top notch food. Red team, blue team, and an open view kitchen where you see them work their craft? Check. Don’t expect to see the man himself at the restaurant though, he’s out there recording shows and living the food dream. Being such a popular restaurant, Hell’s Kitchen is packed full of diners, so book if you ever plan to eat here.

 

Food like this just... mmmm

The food? 10/10, though you do have to pay a pretty penny to have a bite of it. While the majority of the Raiders ordered the fantastic Beef Wellington, others chose the fixed price 3-course menu, which included the Wellington, an option for scallops or Caesar salad to start and a toffee pudding dessert to round it off. I instead opted for the wagyu meatballs and the chicken scallopini as it’d get me more bang for my buck. And man, that turned out to be one hell of a meal (that pun was obligatory).

 

The Journey to Lake Powell

With backdrops like this, the landscapes of Utah are a sight to behold

Before I wrap up the segment on Las Vegas, I should mention that there were some activities that I missed that other Raiders got to experience. Independence Day fireworks? It happened all right with the main show being launched at Caesar’s Palace but our guys were so exhausted from travel they didn’t want to leave the Wyndham to see it. Since this is Las Vegas, of course the Raiders would hit up the casinos. C’mon now. Did we have luck on our side? You bet we did! Immediately after the stripper event, some Raiders rushed out to see the Penn and Teller Magic Show, a duo of performers that weave magic tricks with a comedy routine. But alas, much as we’d love to stay in Las Vegas some more, adventure awaits and we must venture beyond the desert. The crown jewel of this trip: living on a houseboat for 4 days in Lake Powell. With all of our gear packed into our cars, we set off as a convoy on a 5 hour drive up to Antelope Point Marina, the gateway to Lake Powell that sits on the Arizona-Utah border. If you ever visit the United States, a road trip is a must do. Together, we hopped onto Interstate 15 out of Las Vegas all the way into Arizona and St George, Utah. From there, we turned east and saw the majesty of the real Utah – breathtaking rock formations that just get taller and plains as far as the eye can see. Add in moments of banter across the convoy and you’ve got yourself a drive to enjoy.

 

Antelope Point Marina, home to hundreds of houseboats and a really long stretch of pier

We arrived at Antelope Point Marina, got checked in and hours later, there she was, docked and waiting for us. Our houseboat. Finally, we’d be able to make get to grips with the nooks and crannies of the houseboat, make living arrangements and flicker on the party lights. But before we could set sail, we’re going to need supplies for four days on the water. Well, we needed the essentials – a boatload of water (hah), lots of meat, bacon, potatoes, vegetables, corn chips and cheese for the queso and then some more. Last of all, beer, way more beer than we could handle. Sadly, they’re bottom shelf picks such as Coors Lite, but I didn’t have a hand in that.

 

Setting Sail

Out here in the peaceful waters, surrounded by grand rock formations and loads of boats during the prime holiday period

The first sunrise at Lake Powell dawned after a peaceful sleep on the houseboat. Gotta say, I was in awe at how Lake Powell looked by morning as all was quiet on the marina. Dock staff swung by and inducted us on how to operate the houseboat, its intricacies, safety features and so forth before we were detached from the dock and on our own. Our plan to venture on the open waters was thus:

  • Foxler owns a speedboat and two jet skis, which are essential for the expedition to Lake Powell. These would be driven down to the launch ramp and be on the water.
  • The houseboat would leave the dock and stay put at a position slightly further away.
  • The toys would rendezvous with the houseboat and then be towed on the houseboat

 

After what seemed like an eternity waiting on the houseboat, the toys were finally in sight from the houseboat’s top deck. We could now properly begin the 50-mile journey to the Forbidding Canyon, the entryway to the Rainbow Bridge by water. Some growing pains did emerge on the voyage though, the first of which was figuring out how to connect the jet skis to the houseboat. We looked around for a suitable cleat, but hooking it up on open water was somewhat of a challenge that saw Foxler get off the jet ski and into the water. In an act of heroism, Terry dove into the lake to rescue Foxler without hesitation. Awww! Eventually, we figured out a less than optimal solution that would get us through for the day. The second was keeping an eye for submerged rocks that could cause damage to the hull of the houseboat. Having a depth chart helps, as well as a GPS suited for seafaring. Fortunately, the houseboat sailed smoothly and unscathed.

 

As we will spend four days on water, we sailed onwards looking for a place to weigh anchor and settle down when the day is done. We looked and looked along the main channels, but with other houseboats already anchored there, we had to travel further up. Thus, we settled for Last Chance Bay and eventually found a shoreline that we can safely rest on. Anchoring the houseboat also presented its own challenges as well, especially with setting the anchors on the rocks and pulling the rope to position the houseboat just right, but once the vessel was as secure as could be, we wrapped up for the day.

 

Under The Rainbow Bridge

On the second day at Lake Powell, we made the expedition to see the Rainbow Bridge. The plan? Take our speedboat and two jet skis all the way from our anchor point to the Forbidding Canyon with a stop at the Dangling Rope Marina, the only fuel stop/convenience store in these open waters. Thing is, the Forbidding Canyon is rather tight that a 16ft wide houseboat couldn’t reliably fit there, hence the need for smaller seacraft. All of us took the expedition, except for Scorch, who would stay and guard the houseboat, beat the heat and perform his studies around the Lake Powell area.

 

Welcome to Dangling Rope Marina, the only rest stop out here in the lake

When you’re surrounded by gorgeous, towering rock formations and sitting back on a speedboat, you can really say “Now this is the adventure of a lifetime!”. It was just that as we powered to the Dangling Rope Marina, with Terry first on the jetski, handling it admirably. Too bad you didn’t bring your fursuit head on this expedition, that would’ve made everything better. Along the way, Raiders took turns on the jet ski until I heard the words that would define my adventure “Jolt, can you get on the jet ski? With your fursuit head on?” See, I have a piece of art of my fursona on a jet ski, and it was time to bring this into reality. I couldn’t disappoint everyone, could I? With the fursuit head on, I scampered onto the jet ski and set out to deliver. How was the experience, you might ask? Exhilarating, though I will add that reduced visibility can make it scarier, but I really did go for it at times. Miraculously, I didn’t wipe out.

 

From illustration to reality, it's finally happened

Upon reaching the entrance, we’d hit a, uh, what’s the nautical equivalent to a road block? As it happens, there was a coast guard boat that controlled the flow of sea traffic going in and out of the passage to the Rainbow Bridge. To make things dicier, I rolled up there wearing my fursuit head, waving at the passengers on the ferries leaving the bridge. The coast guard guys told us there’d be a one hour wait until they reopen the access way, so our options were limited at this point. Also, they told me to take off the fursuit head. Buddy, I ain’t throwin’ it into the lake! Ah well, at least none of us got into trouble.

 

Like good seafarers, we scampered off with the intent to return to the entrance later, hopefully with less waiting time. So we waited, and found ourselves a corner on the lake to pass the time. Swimming in the waters of Lake Powell is a must, and for a lake that took 17 years to fill, it was definitely something. While we all goofed around on our corner of the lake, the other Raiders took turns on the jet ski, going around the open expanse of water. However, the best part of this was coaxing Mizu to jump into the water as he couldn’t get his sea legs on. With the jet skis refueled, it was time to return back to the bridge entrance.

 

 That little ferry takes us up and across

Finally, the coast guard waved us through the canyon entrance. Let me tell you, slowly cruising down the narrow canyon will bow your mind away – you’re walled in on both sides and the canyon itself reaches staggering heights. Once we docked all our toys, we crossed a water gap by a small transporter and set foot on the trail, ready to hike to the Rainbow Bridge. As we hiked the trail, we set sight on it. The majestic Rainbow Bridge. The view and scale of it defies belief that no matter the angle you see it from, you appreciate just how beautiful it is. I would like to advise you not to actually walk under the bridge as this land is sacred to the Navajo people. Of course, there were also a fair number of people at this time seeing the bridge, and they all remarked on how hot we must be feeling as Foxler, Kody and I carried our heads.

 

Look at the bridge and marvel at the sight of it!

One and a half mile later, we finally arrived, standing right in front of the archway. It was our time to snap up all the pictures of ourselves and our heads with the Rainbow Bridge as the backdrop. We’d finally lived up to everything that we said we would on this trip, and no doubt we crossed off so many bucket list entries on our lives. Turning away from the bridge, I walked with a feeling of wonderment and marvel at everything we’ve done – from the very beginning where we sat at the drawing board and the events that led up to being within walking distance of the Rainbow Bridge. We did it, together. In addition, we know of no other furry who has gotten that close to the Rainbow Bridge with a fursuit head on, or more. Yay us for being pioneers!

 

Winding Down

What's better than riding a jet ski with your fursuit head on? Wearing the entire thing and zooming past!

All that time spent in the Utah sun had just about every Raider with the exception of Scorch feeling sunburnt, exhausted and in pain. Still, we had another day with the houseboat and plan to take it easy such that we may recover our strength and still have a blast. No expeditions, no prolonged periods out in the sun, just us twelve, our toys, and the open water that spanned the whole stretch of Last Chance Bay. Plenty of fun on the water was had, as we simply had to experience the houseboat’s built in water slide. It was this day that Mizu finally got his water wings swimming in the waters of Powell, not to mention being towed by the speedboat sitting in an inflatable raft. He took turns with Kody being on the raft, and the sensation, I imagine, is something you just have to experience for yourself as it’s entirely different from sitting in a speedboat. Best of all was the madman Foxler who one-upped me by taking the jetski out in the entirety of his fursuit. Heck, even Scorch wanted to have a go at it himself, with a green dragon head on. And I thought I set the standard yesterday!

 

As the afternoon wore on, we’d take it upon ourselves for some old-fashioned entertainment – board and card games. I dusted off the salt inducing Monopoly for Millennials as a table of 6 Raiders gathered around the board to live out all the Millennial stereotypes (you wish) and Terry hogged all the good cards. Mikhail brought out Cards Against Humanity (Canadian Edition). So fitting for a band of furries like us and the good times just kept rolling.

 

Still Standing? You know it, after everything the trip has put us through

By night, we enjoyed the conveniences of electronic entertainment by using the TV on the houseboat and connecting Mizu’s Nintendo Switch for a round of games. It was also Mizu’s grand idea to get the fursuiters up and jamming to Just Dance. I’d managed to pull off 2 entire songs, earning the respect of Mizu for doing so in suit, while Mizu rocked it out with Kody. Naturally, Foxler and Kody had to have the floor together for their own routine. Then, one last toast to the Raiders, one glorious steak dinner and a few comedy cartoons on the TV and we all crashed for the night.

 

Farewell, For Now

This is your captain speaking, arf!

We awoke to the last sunrise we’d see at Lake Powell. For that, we’d have to sail the houseboat back to Antelope Point Marina by noon. But there was one big complication along the way: the starboard engine decided to die as we cruised through the open section of lake called Padre Bay. Luckily, the port engine was still in tip-top shape, so we held on tight and prayed that the one engine will see us through to the dock. By what I would believe is a divine miracle, the houseboat limped back to the marina, port side engine alive. That, indeed, is a close call.

 

Sadly, all things must come to an end, and this trip was no exception. With all of our luggage taken out of the houseboat and the speedboat and jet skis towed on Foxler and Kody’s car, we all parted ways. Goodbyes are just difficult especially after spending best week ever with friends. As afternoon turned into sunset and nightfall, Mikhail and Mizu and I doubled back to Las Vegas to fly home while the rest of the Raiders took the grueling drive back to Colorado. So closes the book of this chapter in the story of the Furry Raiders, and with that, this is farewell, for now.

 

Retrospective

Gather round where yonder balloon landed

To conclude, I can proudly say that we, the Furry Raiders, pulled off the adventure of a lifetime and that topping this would be a hard act to follow. It was worth every single penny that I dropped to make this trip possible and meet the friends I’ve known for years to see them face to face for the first time ever. After all, how many times has it happened, ever, that a group of furries manage to take their fursuits to fly the desert skies or even live on a houseboat in the heart of summer?

 

I take home with me memories to last a lifetime, experiences that I’d never ever dream of living out, a sunburn that caused my skin to peel and a bond with friends that has been forged through times both fun and challenging. Even though each of the Raiders onboard are different and may have changed as time passes on or taken their leave, they pitched in and made the trip into what it is, and there’s nobody else I would do this trip with. I would gladly live out this trip all over again. So what’s our next grand adventure? Who knows, you’ll have to keep your eyes open and your ears peeled for when we have something on the cards. That said, we graciously invite you to join us on future adventures down the line.

 

If you’d like to hear about the trip in our own voices, listen to the Raiders Rambles episode #60 - “Adventures of a Lifetime”. It is one of my favourite episodes I’ve ever recorded, full stop.