The 5-mile long Mackinac Bridge connects Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas

Kath Usitalo
Abridged Version

Communications professional specializing in travel and tourism. Writer, photographer, editor, researcher, media relations consultant, blogger, switchboard operator.

At Pictured Rocks, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Kath Usitalo
Epic Version
A life-long Michiganian, I’m a card-carrying travel journalist with memberships in the Society of American Travel Writers and Midwest Travel Writers Association (and am a past president of MTWA).

Botsford Inn, Farmington Hills, Michigan

Most of my career has been involved in some way with the travel and tourism industry, beginning with the summer job I held while pursuing a Communication Studies degree at the University of Detroit.

Inn The Beginning
I learned about the hospitality business—and how to use an antique switchboard—while working behind the front desk at the Botsford Inn, a stagecoach stop that was a day’s drive northwest of Detroit when it was built in 1836.

(For the record, I signed on long after the horse and buggy days, and Botsford Inn still stands but is no longer welcoming guests.)

Comedian Thom Sharp co-starred with a classic Cadillac in a short film I wrote to promote Detroit

An American Classic

Next I joined the public relations staff at the Metropolitan Detroit Convention & Visitors Bureau where I was responsible for a variety of brochures and other print pieces, advertising and media relations programs and films and videos designed to promote my hometown, including the award-winning “Detroit…It’s An American Classic.”

I served on several community and tourism-related committees and was Vice President of Communications when I left the MDCVB to pursue a freelance career.

Our splatter painted Jeep, Detroit mural

Hitting The Road
Since then I have specialized in writing about and taking pictures around Michigan for a variety of magazines, newspapers, websites, blogs, and tourism offices. I occasionally venture beyond state lines and have award-winning stories and photos to prove it.

Our kids Graham and Paige during a research trip for our Great Lakes Gazette

Road trips, in the minivan or Jeep splatter-painted by my artist husband Tom (TJ) Kozak, are the best.

There’s nothing like a good detour (please don’t say wrong turn) and the ability to stop at will to make discoveries.

Or to ask directions. I travel GPS-free and rely on maps, a compass, and instinct to get me there. Eventually.

Great Lakes Gazette
When our kids were tykes TJ and I strapped them into the mini-van and hit the road to gather material for our print publication, Great Lakes Gazette. In my words and TJ’s cartoons and illustrations the bimonthly newszine explored Michigan through the eyes of a young family.

Mom captured a picnic stop along Lake Michigan en route to visiting relatives; I’m on the left behind Dad, looking back toward the Mackinac Bridge

Now that Graham and Paige are grown TJ and I have revived Great Lakes Gazette as a webzine about special people, places, foods, drinks, arts and interesting experiences throughout Michigan and the region.

Travel Is Relative
The roots of that state appreciation run deep. When I was growing up with four siblings our annual family vacation was a summertime trip “Up North” to visit relatives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

I looked forward to our day-long car ride from the Detroit suburb of Redford Township, and to spending time with our cousins on their dairy farm in the mid-peninsula town of Rock.

A farm in Rock, Upper Peninsula

After wearing out our welcome with Mom’s family we’d head further north to Copper Country, where Dad was born and raised.

We stayed with kin in the Keweenaw Peninsula at the family home in Kearsarge and at the “camp” on Lake Superior.

Mine shaft, Champion, Upper Peninsula

Beyond The Mitten
But as much as I treasure those memories I also remember the joy of discovery on our one major family vacation outside of Michigan. It was a 10-day tour through Gettysburg, Washington D.C., New York City, the Hudson River Valley, Cooperstown, NY and Ontario, meticulously planned by Mom with the pre-internet aid of AAA guidebooks, TripTiks and tourist office brochures that arrived by snail mail.

Getting My Wings
As a teen I was thrilled to board Finnair for my first plane ride, a trip to Finland. Tagging along with family from both Mom’s and Dad’s sides I learned to love strong kahvia while visiting our Finnish relatives.

We managed to tear ourselves away from the coffee tables to tour Helsinki, Turku and Porvoo, and we made a brief visit to Stockholm, too. I am forever grateful to Mom, who helped find inventive ways for me to pay for my share of that trip.

Since my visit to Scandinavia I’ve been to many cities, states, provinces and countries on five continents.

And I’ve only scratched the surface.

Mac Wood’s Dune Ride, Silver Lake Dunes, Michigan