Wednesday, February 21 , 2018, 6:04 am | Fair 39º


Noozhawk Talks: Day-Tripping with Author and Traveler Laura Kath

For the co-author of the new edition of Fun with the Family Southern California, merging her passions for writing and tourism was a natural course for her career

Laura Kath may have started out an accidental author, but she’s never been an accidental tourist.

Now the author of 19 books — including her most recent, the eighth edition of Fun with the Family Southern California (with co-author Pamela Price) — this busy lady is also the owner of Mariah Marketing, a bustling consulting business whose clients include the Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau, Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort, the Santa Ynez Valley Visitors Association, the Solvang LOC/Amgen Tour of California, 
Sports Fantasy Tours & Events and APCD/Santa Barbara Car Free Vacation Project.

While growing up in Motown, Detroit, Kath said she was drawn to the travel and hospitality industry and worked in hotels to pay her way through “hotel school,” her nickname for what is now Michigan State University’s School of Hospitality Business.

“I’ve always loved writing, but I’ve also always loved travel,” said Kath, who was working as a publicist for San Ysidro Ranch when those two worlds came together. “They wanted to publish a book to commemorate 100 years of the ranch in 1993. So they were looking around, thinking, who is going to write it? How are we going to get it published, how are we going to do it? Then they said, ‘Well, why don’t we have Laura write it because she is doing all the writing all the time anyway?’”

Laughing, Kath continued, “Literally, that is how it evolved from a combination of my love of travel and tourism. It all merged into that first book, San Ysidro Ranch: A Century of Legendary Hospitality.”

From there, she went on to write a book about Graceland, an ironic twist given that she wasn’t an Elvis Presley fanatic.

“Elvis Presley’s estate was looking to commission a writer to do a guidebook, and I was a radio DJ at that time (on local station K-LITE),” Kath said. “I never was a huge fan of Elvis, but I enjoy his music, and so I was presented as a possible writer and project manager for Elvis Presley’s Graceland: The Official Guidebook. They loved my background because I was just somebody from the tourism and marketing industry. I could write and understand what the visitor wanted in that souvenir book. It came out on Elvis’ birthday in 1994.”

Kath also wrote a commemorative book for the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and three books for Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Forest Lawn: The First 100 Years; 100 Years in the Life of Forest Lawn Illustrated; and Forest Lawn Memorial-Parks: A Place for the Living), which made her into a bit of a media expert when Michael Jackson was buried in the cemetery’s Great Mausoleum.

“I had this amazing niche to be able to do these books or these commissioned works, and I really, really enjoy it,” said Kath, who lives in Los Alamos. “It’s a very niche market in publishing.”

Kath met Price, a Palm Springs-based travel writer, while she was working with San Ysidro Ranch. When Price heard that Globe Pequot Press, a highly regard travel publisher, was looking to do a book about family fun in Southern California, she asked Kath to partner with her on a proposal. Along with the new release of the eighth edition, the team also partnered on a new book, Day Trips from Los Angeles, which came out in December.

“There is such a lot of ignorance about the vastness of California and the geography, and the fact that here in Santa Barbara County there is such diversity of activities, recreational opportunities, attractions, history — and it is all so simple to get to,” Kath said. “That’s what I like about our fun with the family book as well as the day trips book. You can pick it up anywhere, open it up and go, ‘Hey, I didn’t know that. I didn’t realize that you could do that.’”

Both books focus a lot on free activities.

“Free is a big deal. We think that families need free activities, too,” Kath said. “It isn’t all about spending the massive amounts of money that you can spend for family entertainment. There are so many things that are free or very, very low cost to do in Southern California.”

Kath said that one of her favorite places to take young visitors is the waterfront in Santa Barbara.

“It’s not just about walking on the pier, which is always fun,” she said. “Have you gone to the (Ty Warner) Sea Center? Have you gone into the Maritime Museum? Have you actually taken a sailboat cruise? Have you gone out on a fishing trip?”

Kath doesn’t have any children, so she said she uses her family to help with research.

“A perfect example is my nephew, who lives in San Diego, who did a special father-daughter train trip to Santa Barbara with his daughter, who was 6 at the time,” Kath said. “We did Santa Barbara car free, and we had a really magical time because we weren’t tied to a car. There was so much to see and do. ... She literally counted 99 crabs on the wall at the harbor. This was the best thing ever!

“Yes, I know I promote Car Free (as a client), but I’m so fervent about it. I really believe that we have the opportunity to slow down and use alternative transportation to really not only save our environment but also appreciate and experience our environment.”

Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when she was 5 years old, Kath has been an active volunteer with the Arthritis Foundation for three decades.

“A lot of people don’t know about it, because I don’t look like I’m crippled,” she said, “but I’ve had both my knees replaced, and I’ve had 11 orthopedic surgeries,” including an elbow replacement surgery just days before this interview.

Another great passion for Kath is train travel. Last year she went to San Antonio on the Sunset Limited.

“I love train travel,” she said. “It’s one of my big things.”

Of course, planes are good, too. She’s been to China and Greece recently, and has traveled throughout Europe and Rio de Janeiro. And she says she can’t wait to plan her next trip.

“The whole idea of travel really appeals to me,” Kath said. “Travel is a builder of bridges between individuals and people and countries. I find that travel breaks down a lot of barriers and really allows you as an individual to grow as well as the others that you encounter.

“There’s still a lot on my list.”

[Noozhawk’s note: Laura Kath and Pamela Price will be signing copies of Fun with the Family Southern California at The Book Loft, 1680 Mission Drive in Solvang (805.688.6010), from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday, March 27.]

Noozhawk contributor Leslie Dinaberg can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow her on Twitter: @LeslieDinaberg.

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