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TPG Blog #12: Oh The Places We'll Go & Skeeter's White Water Taco Salad Recipe

Kelly Giggy

Posted on July 22 2021

TPG Blog #12:  Oh The Places We'll Go & Skeeter's White Water Taco Salad Recipe


Hello fellow travelers,


I love a trip!  Flying, driving or a combo of both – love, love, love.  I think the airport might be my favorite.  The stories and lives of everyone hustling around with the anticipation of pending plans or saying goodbye, a life left behind or a new chapter beginning.  Newlyweds, weary families with lots of luggage, college students coming home for semester break, an artist with dreams in a guitar case, a barista at the airport coffee bar who grew up down the street, business traveler making the deals – I see you all. 

My grandparents took a trip to Europe and mailed a postcard to my brother and I almost daily – from April through August 1971 – from every country they visited.  They would write about the places that they visited that day, what they did and didn’t care for, and people they met and the weather.  They wrote letters to my parents and we sent pictures drawn in crayon to them.  Life happened while they were gone and it’s documented, in a stack of postcards and letters, held together by a rubber band for 50 years.  Periodically, I would shuffle through them, reading and reliving their adventure only to be placed back in the box where they had been kept like a time capsule. 

My grandfather died of cancer within a year after returning home.  Yes, the one who won the all-time best entrance by a visitor (click here for Blog #10), landing his airplane on the road in front of our house.  After a few years, I became my grandmother’s travel partner.  For my 8th grade graduation present, we toured the East Coast for a few weeks, one of our last afternoons spent at the Met with tickets to a ballet along with a life lesson on how to hail a cab in New York City. 

She was all business, typing our itinerary on 3 ½” x 5” recipe cards on which our days were outlined and travel tips were written.  She was on a mission to make sure that I knew how to be a well-versed, confident traveler and how to handle situations as they arose.   She had done this with me since I can remember; quite a few afternoons were spent taking the city bus in Fresno from her neighborhood and back. She would say at stops “Is this the one?”, and I would plan our route, reading the map and schedule to get us back to her house.  It was through her that I discovered and appreciated that the world was a big place and you have to zoom out every so often – it’s good for the soul. 

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I placed my grandparent’s postcards and letters from their European trip into clear pocket pages in a binder so that both sides could be seen, along with their typed recipe card itinerary, timeline and a map of Europe from 1971.   I looked at the date of the first postcard and realized that it was 50 years ago, to the day, April 24, 1971.  I think it was just my grandmother, in her orderly, business-like way, telling me that it was about time.


So here you go, traveler!  I wrote this recipe on the back of a paper bag after a day-long white-water rafting trip on the Kings River in California.  Lunch was prepared on a table covered with butcher paper and served on the banks of the river by our guide and this was it – heavenly deliciousness and THE best lunch that I had ever had, IN.MY.LIFE! 

Could it have been the pine trees, the blue skies, the incessant paddling?  We left our lives behind and for a day, traveled to this magical place and we learned the lingo, traveled in a bus on a dusty road, put on the gear and we were one of them – as cool and hip as the river guides and their cool, hip names.  The guide’s sleeping quarters were on suspended wooden pallets above the river and when we paddled by them, the difference between male and female belongings and decorating styles was clearly on display for all to see!  They were there for the summer and our guide gave testimony to how peaceful it was to sleep under the stars with the sound of the river below.

For a split-second I thought … I could totally do this:  spend my summers living on a pallet beneath a star-filled sky, not a care in the world but guiding others through nature in a lifejacket and board shorts and living on this taco salad. 

But crowded that pallet would be with four of us – my husband and two kids – and our dog and I was back in the present, looking for a pen to write down this recipe.

Whitewater Taco Salad

Skeeter the River Guide, 7/2008, (click here for Zephyr Whitewater Expeditions)

  • Kidney beans, canned
  • Black beans, canned
  • Pinto beans, canned
  • Whole kernel corn, canned
  • Sliced olives, canned
  • Cheese
  • Green onions
  • Avocados
  • Cheese
  • Chopped fresh tomatoes
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Regular taco seasoning
  • Lime juice


Mix together and serve with tortillas, tortilla chips, salsa and sour cream. No quantities – loosen up and just wing it, as if you were a cool white-water rafting guide with a hipster name that you gave yourself.

The world is a big, beautiful place. Now get out there and really, truly see and live in it.  Travel, take pictures, listen to others, write down how your days unfold and you’ll remember how it made you feel.  Send a postcard every day, home, to yourself.  Print your pictures, tape into an album and write down your experience before it’s forgotten.  What a priceless gift to yourself and those who come after you!

You may even find yourself along the way.  

So go, get out there, raise your hands up and peace out everyone – it’s what we do, you know.



Kelly (aka River – just call me this for the summer, please)

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