We are told it will rain off and on (mostly on) all day today. Oh, and windy. Gusts of wind. Those isobars are packed tight today, weaving and waving their lines towards us from the west. It's November though -- what else can you expect? We cycle north through the city, through Chinatown, pausing in Niewmarkt to remember our first visit here one extremely clement March. Then we roll straight onto a ferry over the River IJ and roll straight off the other side into pleasant suburbia (mostly land reclaimed in last 50 years to meet the demands of a rapidly expanding Amsterdam) and hence onto a wild natural Polder Oostzaan. Why this wilderness? Water management. (Everything is all about the water. Always.) Headwinds. Marshland birds. More herons than you can shake a stick at. (And at one point, somehow, we inadvertently literally did. Nerves of steel, those herons. Be still now, indeed.) I love polders. Musings on wide open skies... my mother spent her childhood in south Texas, loved wide open spaces... my father grew up homesteading in the Bitterroot ranges of northern Idaho and hated them... the two years in the 1970s we lived on the prairies, my father yearned for mountains. My sister-in-law from the prairies felt claustrophobic for years in western Oregon. Me, I'm comfortable with either. Both. I love the drama of Big Sky Country. And the Netherlands definitely qualifies. Look down at your feet, below sea level. Look up. The sky is the limit. Anyway. I like wild, empty polders! And the sun is peeking through. Lunchtime brings us to Zaanse Schans, a residential area of Zaandam that looks like a theme park but is the real deal and oddly enough not a 'protected' site (although it is listed on the European Route of Industrial Heritage). Tasty salads and coffee in a bistro run by a family with very American accents. The bikes sit unsecured outside the window. (Adam has left the key to his chain in the pocket of his other trousers!) Then back through Zaanse Schans and across the Wijdewormer to Neck then through the sprawling town of Purmerand and down long straight avenues to Edam. Edam is a "protected townscape" and very pretty, verging on twee. They really ought to pedestrianise the village centre though. A brief sit down and then... it's dark. Magic along the unlit Purmerdijk -- a night ride! Our little blinkies are next to useless. But there's no traffic, just the sound of the wind in the reeds and dry grasses bordering the canal. A few wiggles through industrial estates to make you think you're back in the UK (cycle here? inconceivable!) and then we are on a southbound train... Approximately 40 miles in total.