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  • My wife had managed to talk me into driving her down into the Shenandoah Valley so that she could do some “antiqueing,” and in anticipation of the goodies she expected to purchase and carry home we took the truck. We were poking around this one guy’s yard, he had some tables of junk and some beat up old furniture next to them, when something caught my eye.

    What at first seemed to be an old metal milk can appeared to have emblazoned on the side a heraldic shield and crest. My excitement mounted as I wiped off the dust and grime and realized that the shield neatly framed what I soon realized was a leather codpiece! My God!, I muttered to myself, this is the petrol tank for a Spagthorpe! The guy, noticing my interest, came over and asked if I wanted to buy it. He said that it had been lying around in that old shed out back when he bought the place, and thought that he might get a few bucks for it. I looked it over, what a trophy! and was ready to give him the money when I noticed a curious thing. It was beat up and timeworn everywhere but where the mounting brackets had it bolted to the frame. Here the metal was shiny and uncorroded. My mind raced. This petrol tank had only recently been removed from itS frame; the frame must be nearby, possibly in the guy’s shed. By sheer hulking will I feigned disinterest, paid the guy 5 bucks for the tank, gathered the wife and drove off.

    What could I do? I had to know if that shed contained a Spagthorpe, jewel of the British Empire. I told my wife that I was having a great time shoppping (a special hell will be reserved for me), and that we should spend the night in a motel around here and make a weekend of it. We went out for dinner, and I made sure that the wine was flowing (for her). After dinner we went back to the motel, and soon enough she was sleeping soundly. I had a plan. I would drive back to the guy’s house, sneak into the shed, and find out whether a Spagthorpe lay within. I would also take the petrol tank with me in case I needed to make up a story if by chance I were caught. Once inside I would also photograph anything interesting.

    The moon was full as I parked up the street and ran through the yard and back behind the shed. The anticipation, and sheer excitement of what I was doing caused me to tremble, but I was resolute; I am a Denizen!

    The old oak door proved suprisingly resilient to my attempts to pry it open so I instead decided to enter through the window. It was not locked, and soon I had it open and was crawling through. I glanced around the dirty old shed; I could make out some old tables and chairs, old tools, machine parts, and something else over in the corner. I went over to look, and gasped as I realized what I was seeing in that pale white moonlight.

    It was a huge machine, with 2 rear wheels and 1 in front. “A trike?”

    I seemed to remember some tales about the early days of the Spagthorpe dynasty, when Lord Beamish Spagthorpe, the current Lord Julian’s grandfather, was a young ne’er-do-well peer of the realm. His interest in motorcycles was the stuff of legend, his racing exploits having already placed him among the top daredevils of the era. He and his mechanically inclined friend, Sir Reginald Hotspur-Smythe, were also in the forefront of motorcycle design and manufacture, with the early Spagthorpe Boxer to their credit.

    Lord Beamish and “Reggie” counted among their freinds the wild and irrepressible Quentin Hogsley-Dervishson. Quentin was an hasheesh smoker and absinthe drinker, whose short yet eventful life need not be recounted here. He was also a motorcycle enthusiast of the first order, but due to his often debauched state could not muster the werewithall, let alone the balance, to ride the motorcycles of that or any other era. It was with their friend in mind that Lord Beamish and Reggie decided to build a bike for their besotted friend. A bike of unusual stability and simplicity of use, thus was the Spagthorpe Bulldog, the first trike, conceived.


    Reputed Spagthorpe tank artwork, as unearthed by motoarchaeologist Tuba Irwin.


    I pulled myself together from my reverie, and appraised the machine before me. It was a Bulldog allright! Even in that dusty shed, with the years of neglect and abuse bearing down on it, the trike still bore the noble bloodlines, the impeccable craftmanship, and the fiery demeanor of a thoroughbred. In that eerie moonlight it stood there proud, strong, and I wondered what tales could it tell, how did it find itself here?.

    I inspected the trike, and noted the counterbalance steering seat (whereby if the drunken Quentin were to collapse to one side or the other, hydraulic sensors would not only him back to the upright position, but would also decelerate the bike while maintaining a straight line), the burled walnut wardrobe on the left of the seat, and the sink (with hot and cold water faucets) to the right of the seat. I looked for the silver champagne bucket that I had remembered from photographs, but it had not survived the ravages of time and the depradations of the current owner. I closely inspected the chamber in front of the seat, behind the now missing petrol tank, but the turkish hookah was also missing. I moved forward to the motor, and what a behemoth it was. The 2000cc single cylinder MkII/B borrowed from the Mastiff was still in position, the great dual flywheels that it drove almost obscuring it on both sides. affixed to each flywheel was the rod that ran back to a similar yet smaller arrangement in the rear. The flywheel arrangement served 2 purposes: the first was to drive the rods that drove the rear wheel shafts, the second being to provide a counter motion to the tremendous reciprocating motion of the single cylinder engine. I smiled as I remebered the stories of the first Bulldog, the connecting rods had been mounted to the same spot on each flywheel instead of being set up for an opposing stroke, the resulting motion literally tearing the prototype apart. As I moved toward the front of the trike I was especially fascinated by the belt driven warning siren that alerted all other travellers that Quentin was abroad in the land.

    I excitedly placed the petrol tank back into position in order to photograph the beast. “What a coup for the Denizen archives!” I thought to myself. As the tank slipped into its collar on the frame, I felt the satisfying click as the pressure seal engaged, and realized that the tank was now reunited with the trike (the petrol tank was designed to disengage easily due to the enebriated Quentin’s proclivity for running out of gas, the idea being that is was easier to carry the tank than push the trike). I set the camera onto a nearby table, focussed in on the trike, set the timer, and climbed into the Bulldog seat. To my satisfaction the flash engaged and the picture was taken.

    It was then that the thought struck me! The Spagthorpe Bulldog stored tremenduos energy into a helical spring arrangement that provided the force necessary to turn over the engine. Each time the trike was run, the spring was slowly wound up ready for the next start. Could there be enough force still stored in the spring? Could I turn the beast over, would she run? I looked around the shed and found some kerosene in an old lamp, some paint thinner, and what appeared to be some very hard cider in a jug. The Spagthorpe was legendary for being able to run on anything, this was to be the ultimate test, and I quickly poured everything into the ancient tank. A rubber bulb below the tank seemed to be connected to the petrol line so I gave a good hard squeeze. Climbing back into the seat I looked around for the lever that released the spring and engaged the centrifugal clutch. There was a brass and wood knob to one side of of a brass plate with several dials embedded into the face. I pulled on the knob as hard as I could!

    The events that transpired next are still somewhat fuzzy in my memory, but to the best of my recollection, here is what occured.

    A tremendous whirring sound came from a round case bolted behind the engine, I realized that the spring was indeed releasing its energy and the clutch plates were spinning. The next noise that came from the beast was a grinding sound that I took to be all the clutch discs engaging and the engine starting to turn over, I could only hope that the ancient magneto was still up to snuff. After several revolutions my heart almost expolded when that old MKII/B suddenly roared to life. The entire trike was shuddering around me and I felt the hydraulic seat sensors adjust to my weight. It was then that it happened!

    I must have engaged the automatic transmission foot pedal, because the trike lurched forward andmoved rapidly across the shed. In horror I realized that had no idea where the brakes were, and could only sit there stunned as the trike burst through the previuously impervious oak doors and lunged into the yard. It was then that I noticed for the first time that there were no handlebars, merely a lever comming up through the floor in front of the seat. I grabbed the lever and tried to lean it to the left or right, but nothing happened. At this point the trike crossed a ditch at the edge of the yard and we were in the street. The lurch as we traversed the ditch caused me to lean heavily against the lever, at which point the trike turned to the right. As I pulled back on the lever the wheel the trike straightened itself out and we were moving down the road. I could now steer the trike with this joystick lever with some ease.

    The road was moonlit, the breeze was cool in my face, and I was starting to enjoy the ride as we moved through the Virginia countryside, the Spagthorpe and I. She felt eager to run and was moving at a good 40 to 45 mph. I still had no idea where the brake lever was, but I found that by disengaging the the clutch lever I could induce a free roll at which point she would slow down rapidly, re-engaging the clutch lever when power was necessary. The only problems I experienced where with those blasted seat sensors, their constant probing and adjusting of the plane of the seat as I tried to inspect the trike were a constant nuisance. The pathetic headlamp was also a problem if a car would approach, but except for a few honks, nobody seemed too concerned as I passed. I sensed the twin spirits of Lord Beamish on my left side and Geeky the Daemon on my right as we rode through that moonlit night.

    Again, my reverie was broken by a strange wail starting from the trike, a mournful dirgelike howl that grew louder with each passing moment. “Good Lord, the siren!” I said as the banshee wailing grew louder and louder. I reached forward to see if I could disconnect the sirens drive belt somehow, but the effect on both the steering and the seat sensors immediately caused me to abandon that attempt. It was while I was otherwise preoccupied with the siren that we rounded the next curve and found ourselves travelling into the same town where my wife and I were staying. I did not want to attract any more attention than was necessary, therefore I pulled into the nearest parking lot to turn around and return back to the guy’s shed. Unfortunately I had selected the local 24 hour donut shop to execute my maneuver, and I realized with horror that my excursion through the lot was being viewed by several members of the local constabulary. My only regret was that I did not exhibit the presence of mind to photograph the look on their faces as a fully featured Spagthorpe Bulldog executed a precision figure 8, while wailing like a demon from hell, in front of their donut gorged faces.

    Needless to say, I decided that this evening jaunt was over, and that I should return the Bulldog posthaste to its owner. I let the trike build up to its maximum speed, around 60 mph I would estimate, and concentrated on steering the beast down that silvery ribbon of road. Behind me I could hear the first undulating wails of the police sirens over the steadier drone of the trike, and knew that I needed to find the right house and return the trike before they caught up to me.

    It was while I was thus preoccupied with the exhilaration of the chase that I failed to negotiate a sharply banked curve and I found myself running off the road and into a field. The resulting jerking and bouncing caused me to lose all control of the machine and we raced across the field and into a thicket on the far side. Branches and twigs raked my face, but still we sped on, emerging from the thicket and onto what appeared to be an old fire trail going accross the mountain. We crossed the fire trail, burst through what seemed to be a chain stretched along several posts, hit an embankment, and hurtled into the air. The resulting strain on the seat sensors must have caused them to go haywire as I was hurtled from the seat in a manner reminicent of jet fighter ejection seats. I hit the ground with a thud, and lay there, waiting for the sound of the Spagthorpe to hit the ground.

    After several moments, I realized that I wasn’t going to hear that sound! If it was going to land, it should have done so by now. I cautiously stood up and checked for breaks and bruises; everything seemed to be in place, and nothing felt broken. Peering ahead and over the enbakment, I could see no sign of the Spagthorpe. I wondered around, and finally came across the chain that had acted as a barrier on the one side of the trail. As I followed it along I came to a wooden sign hanging from a link. In the moonlight I read:


    It is extremely hazardous to leave the trail in this area as there are many caves, holes, and subterranean hazards.

    Well, that must be the answer. The Bulldog must have flown directly into one of these caves, and is now deep underground someplace. There would be no way for me to find it, and it could be dangerous to be looking. I figured that I had had enough adventure for one evening, that I should go find the truck, make up a story for the old lady, and beat feat out of this burg.

    Well, we made it out of there ok. My wife bought the story, and the cops never came looking, so I figure nobody linked me to the event. The local papers talked about how the local cops had to drive one of those outlaw biker gangs out of town, and a report of a guy who had his shed broken into and some antique stuff stolen.

    I still wonder about the Bulldog, they say there are underground rivers that run through those caves and that travel for miles before emerging someplace else. Who knows, maybe it will surface in another town, where another Denizen can fire it up and do us all proud. I look forward to that day!


    Oh yeah, about the photograph. When I had the picture developed, it seems that the camera must have moved, because all that you can see is what looks like an old Ford tractor.

    Spagthorpe Home From: Terry Cunningham (terry@prcrs.prc.com)
    Subject: Re: Spagthorpe Bulldog
    Newsgroups: rec.motorcycles
    Date: 1992-08-30 08:18:56 PST
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