I’ve had the pleasure of knowing the Pilichowski family for close to 10 years now. Rabbi Uri and Aliza are not only wonderful people, they are also amazing parents to 6 awesome kids Avigayil, Temimah, Gila, Naomi, Tova and Moshe. When they heard about my project to see all 50 states with my kids, they were instantly inspired and have been blazing a trail hot on our heels ever since. So far the Pilichowskis have visited 35 states in 4 trips. I don’t know about you, but I’m doing the math and that’s a lot of ground they’ve covered in a short period of time. (to give you some perspective, it’s taken me 14 trips to cover 42 states).
Like me, I am sure you are dying to know how this family of 8 makes it work? Planning, staying organized, not to mention just keeping track of everyone can be a real challenge on the road. According to Rabbi Uri the hardest part is keeping the kids occupied in the minivan and figuring out who sits next to whom. Aside from the car, in order to keep costs down, they all stay in 1 hotel room with double beds when they are not staying with friends or relatives and split showering between day and night. If you haven’t figured it out yet, this family is really committed to their quest to see all 50. We’ve covered transportation and lodging, but there are a few other challenges facing this family that make it all even more impressive.
Activities for a family of 8 can get pretty pricey but the Pilichowskis have gotten that down to a science. They seek out as many free activities as possible but are quick to tell me that fun is the priority over saving money. Their favorite activity of all time was volunteering to help the victims of the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma-that speaks volumes about this family’s values. They’ve also encountered some other fun (and free) surprises on the road. Their most memorable surprise occured while driving through Kansas. According to Rabbi Uri, as they were coming over a mountain, down in the valley below they spotted a “massive army base with every type of helicopter you could imagine laid out on the Tarmac ready to fly”. They stopped and the army let them in and gave them a tour of the helicopters on the runway explaining what each was used for and how they work. Just goes to show you, it never hurts to ask ...
Another challenge the family faces is finding kosher food on the road. As Orthodox Jews, the Pilichowski family adheres to the strict laws pertaining to “kashrut” or what makes food kosher or non kosher. They bring some food with them on the road and can always find kosher foods at almost every market (ever see an O with a u in the middle of it?-that’s just one of many symbols signifying an item has been approved as kosher). It may not always be glamorous (peanut butter and jelly, tuna fish are a few options) but no one starves. If they do happen to find a kosher restaurant anywhere remotely near where they are, they will drive miles out of their way to check it out.
For fellow travelers, especially those with big families, the Pilichowskis advise to plan well, but also be ready to change your plans at a moment’s notice- “There are always surprises on the side of the road”. I couldn’t agree more. But perhaps their best advice yet according to Aliza….”Bring lots of snacks”-as a fellow parent, I can tell you there isn’t much worse on the road than hungry, cranky kids.
The Pilichowski’s next big road trip is to the Pacific Northwest, driving from Michigan to Oregon. I think at that point they will surely have caught up with me. We have lots of great suggestions for them and know that these veteran road trippers will be using The Explore All 50 Project to check out everything they shouldn’t miss in every state they visit. The Pilichowski family embodies the spirit of “When there is a will there is a way”, even for a family of 8 on a limited budget with dietary restrictions! I hope you are inspired by this amazing family, for surely if they can do it, you can too!
If you’d like to share your story, we’d love to profile you on The Explore All 50 website. Email Alisa at Alisa@ExploreAll50.com to let us know you want your story told and we’ll get your info and craft a story about your quest, what motivates you, your favorite road trip memories, and any other fun and interesting stuff we can share to inspire others to explore all 50. Safe travels!