How Paul Doffing toured his music around the U.S. -- on his bike

How Paul Doffing toured his music around the U.S. -- on his bike
Photo via Facebook

A typical tour for an artist involves gear and a vehicle to get from city to city. In early June, Minneapolis artist Paul Doffing quit his two jobs and hit the road to play some shows. This tour was not an ordinary tour; Paul came up with the idea to be free from fuel by traveling with merely a friend and a bike. The singer was up against a summer that had record highs, finding enough money for food, and almost getting hit by a car.

Doffing is back in Minneapolis to share his story and perform a concert at the Creek House on Saturday night. Gimme Noise spoke with the musician before his show about the reasoning behind his tour and how he survived six months on the road.

The singer came up with the idea to do a full tour on his bike when he saw how much fossil fuel was being wasted on running errands within five miles of homes. He believes the importance of where the world is headed in terms of global climate is pivotal. This summer hosted record highs, and Paul biked through the largest wildfire in Montana's history. Even at his album release, Charlie Parr, who was set to perform alongside Paul, was unable to make it because his house was flooded out in Duluth. Doffing says, "This sort of drama unfolding in the environment highlighted for me the importance of promoting alternative transportation and what I could do with it. It was a goal to not only do it, but also to finish it."

Paul looked to Kickstarter to help fund the tour and was able to successfully raise $4,000 plus through fans and friends. Paul had originally planned on hoofing it alone, but his friend Greg Tambornino, with whom he'd been in previous band, said to him, "You probably shouldn't do this incredibly long journey by yourself," and Doffing couldn't help but agree. Paul had done some long distance biking before, but he had never done anything this grueling prior to the tour. Biking with a load that weighed over 120 pounds of gear takes a lot out of a person.

Where an average person intakes 2,000 calories per day, Paul and Greg had to up the amount to 6,000 to be able to bike the 50-100 miles per day. That combined with the heat, put a strain on the food budget. Paul shared, "We'd spend $30-$35 a day on food, and if you think about how long it would take to get to another city, it costs more than taking a car would. You can get to Madison in a day with one tank of gas, but on bike, it takes about six days. If you stretch it out, that's about $200." It was a surprise for him, but also a learning curve.

How Paul Doffing toured his music around the U.S. -- on his bike
Photo via Facebook

To save money, the two camped in tents instead of renting hotel rooms. He says, "It definitely came down to the place where we had to decide to camp for free, because we were running low on money. I would make money at shows, but it got eaten up quickly. There was only one day where we got a hotel, and it happened to be on my birthday. It was 35 degrees and raining, and we had three 2,000-foot mountain passes that were very steep -- the kind of climbing where you're going up for almost two hours straight. We had to get a hotel room because we were so drained and tired. Outside of this, there was only ever one time where I felt like my life was in danger. In South Dakota, there was a guy going 60 miles-per-hour that missed me by an inch while I was on my bike."

It wasn't all bad though, while in Montana, Paul and Greg met up with a pair of cyclers named Jen and Shawn. Paul ended up falling in love with Jen, and she even toured with him down to San Francisco and eventually moved to Minneapolis. "A few songs came out that story, and I'm still writing more."

Looking to stay stationary for a bit, Doffing is going to finish more music this winter, songs that he says represent him even more than his first album did. While on tour, it was a little difficult for some of his audience to relate to what he was doing -- especially in places like Montana where vehicles are necessary to get from point A to point B. Despite this, Paul still claims that this summer was an incredible period of growth for him.

"I noticed on this tour that being in a car, or a house even, having shelter from the elements cuts you off from the fragility of humanity. You don't get to feel that feeling of being so cold that you're worried or being so hot that you're worried. You don't get to feel the air on your face. Being outside deepens a person's relationship with who they are. The interconnectivity of nature, of my life and the life of other people, and the life of the world itself -- this is what led me to do this tour on the bike. It's all been developing together, and it has influenced my music. I think it's influenced everything about me."

Paul Doffing's Freedom From Fuel Tour returns to Minneapolis at The Creek House on Saturday, December 8, 2012 with Robert Everest.
AA, $20 suggested donation, 6:30 pm

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