By Austin MacDonald
The first stop on Ingrid Birker’s “Stones and Beer” Bike Tour is on the west side of the Redpath Museum, on McGill’s University’s gated downtown campus. The current Science Outreach Coordinator of Canada’s first museum points to a limestone foundation block containing the fossilized remains of a brachiopod.
“Five million years ago this whole area was covered in a beautiful and nutritious coral sea. This is deep time,” she begins, thus launching her three-hour, Sunday evening bike tours of approximately a dozen other arcane points of historic and natural science interest in downtown Montréal. Mercifully, the tour winds up at the McAuslan microbrewery, beside the Atwater market in St. Henri. Beer tasting and hilarity ensue.
As well as being an impassioned and engaging conversationalist and tour guide, she’s also part of a rare breed of Montréal cyclists who bike through the winter. “The snow started to fall and I tried it. I took some of the air out of my tires and lowered the seat,” she recalls of her first winter riding her bike, “You don’t need designer gear. You need boots with flat soles, earmuffs, a scarf, and mittens.”
Her nine kilometre route home was the inspiration for her bike tours. “I began looking at stuff along the way.” What’s the payoff of her daily commute? “For sure I’m one of the happier people who arrive here in the morning. And this is a happy place,” she says.