You're invited to a meeting of Buffalo's Gas-oholics Anonymous:
Chorus: "Hi Alistair!"
Alistair Campbell of Buffalo now openly confesses to gas-oholics everywhere that for over a year now he's been clean -- absolutely "car-free."
OK, the University at Buffalo computer science teacher admits he slips once in a while and rents a car, "but I don't own one, neither do I want to own one."
Yes, the gas-oholics meeting is a fantasy, but it soon could become reality in America's polluted, car-obsessed culture (just try watching a single TV show without at least one car commercial), and with threatened fuel supplies. And it's absolutely true that Campbell will never get showroom fever.
The soon-to-be Dr. Campbell, 29, said, "I could go on and on about how a car is bad for society, but the real issue is that biking is my personal preference, I just like to do it. It's enjoyable to ride a bike, psychologically uplifting, I feel freer.
"It would be good to have more people doing 'alternative transportation.' "
And he doesn't miss all those delightful visits to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
You can see Campbell biking his way from his downtown Buffalo apartment all the way to the windy Amherst campus every day, taking only a few minutes more than if he drove. Outfitted in helmet and four layers of clothing, he made the 16 mile-round trip trek even through last week's snowstorms, getting many "thumbs-up" along the way.
The storm-view is clearer than in a car, Campbell said. And he rarely falls. He's one of Western New York's most intrepid cyclists, next to the young Southtowns' enthusiast who biked from Niagara Falls to Angel Falls, Venezuela, wearing out 19 bike tires. Campbell may have traveled as far.
Campbell's love of biking started early. As a kid, he started out with the standard bike with a banana seat.
"For my 10th birthday, my parents gave me a yellow and black 10-speed from Western Auto," recalled this former Eagle Scout. "My sister Anne and I would ride to the 7-11 without permission, and buy candy." Then he grew interested in "putting bikes together, and taking them apart. I still have the scars from when a bike fell apart on me at relatively high speed.
"About the same time I wrecked my friend David's bike."
A bike is to a boy what a horse is to a cowboy: freedom. Campbell recalled cycling to the mall "in order to see Angela, a girl who worked there and on whom I had a big crush. That's about the time I learned that my mother didn't like me riding a bike that far on narrow roads. So from then on I just didn't tell her." Mom should be really nervous now. In 1991, he started his "credit card debt by buying a Mt. Shasta mountain bike my senior year in college."
"Later in 1991, I went for my first ride in the snow. I wasn't very good at it on the unplowed sidewalk, but once I got onto main roads, I did just fine. But I was new in Buffalo at the time," said this Colgate University honors graduate.
Two years later he entered a mountain bike race, "and lost horribly. I was in no condition. Only now do I understand about training. Not that I train really. I just ride every day."