• Image about Sherri Burns

Being compared to Brid­get Jones does nothing for the ego (not to mention your love life), but the last year has been a great ride.

They called us the talent.

The 2005 Ultimate Road Warrior finalists - Andy, D.J., Amie, Ben, and I - received the coveted call in September. They welcomed the message with the same joy that comes when balloons and a guy from Publishers Clearing House shows up on your front doorstep. But for me, it was different. Unlike the others, I had been vying for the URW title for two years. In my effort to be supreme, I had kept every boarding pass, read every Road Warrior-related article I could get my hands on, and spent hours recording relatively mundane observations from my life on the road. My drawers were filled with scribbled notes, newspaper clippings, and old editions of American Way. Dog-eared pages and worn covers aside, I looked to them for inspiration. You see, in 2004 I was a Top 20 finalist. But I came up short on a question related to the Tom Hanks film The Terminal - and I was determined not to let URW greatness elude me again.

I knew 2005 would be my year.

My plan was simple: I'd win the contest, be whisked off to some fabulously tropical place for photographs and interviews, and then, with my newfound fame and glory, I'd quit the job responsible for putting me in the road-warrior category in the first place and run off to Italy in search of the Tuscan sun for a few months (or maybe even a year). With a million AAdvantage miles and two million Hilton HHonors points, the opportunities were endless.

The phone call came - "You're a winner!" the voice on the other end exclaimed. "Third place!"

To this day, that conversation haunts me. How could I miss again? After all, I was the epitome of a road warrior. I practically lived at SFO (San Francisco International Airport); my distressed carry-on bags proved it. I had even given up hope of getting a date in my neighborhood and had set my sights on finding a cute Transportation Security Administration agent in Terminal 3. And there I was … third place. Ugh.

Well, they called it third place, but I was skeptical. After all, there were three third-prize winners, and in that group were Amie, a career contest entrant fresh off an all-expenses-paid trip she'd won in a joke-telling contest, and Ben, a witty chap who worked for an airline food-service firm. So while some say it's a hunch, I have a keen sense for the obvious and am pretty sure this simple, single-girl Road Warrior came in fifth. (So much for running off to Italy with my million miles.)

Still, how could I not be excited? While I'm a bit of a perfectionist, I'm certainly not crazy. Let's face it, a photo shoot in Hawaii … a stylist … a makeup artist … professional photographers and the magic of retouching - it's the stuff girls dream of. Especially single ones like me.

"Aloha!"

We were greeted by editor Sherri Burns and the rest of the American Way crew at Waimea-Kohala Airport on the Big Island of Hawaii. Swept away in a stretch SUV limo complete with a blue neon glow emanating from underneath, we knew it was the start of something wonderful. And later, after my celebratory piña colada with everyone in the hotel bar, I was sure this was a life-altering experience in motion. Besides, Sherri was convinced my Mr. Right was flying American Airlines and that he'd surely write in to ask for my phone number. More than three million readers a month, she told me. Six million eyeballs - many of them belonging to men. While I may not have ended up with the grand prize, these odds were in my favor. The Road Warrior issue of American Way landed in AA seat pockets on December 15, 2005. It marked the beginning of what I'd thought would be a flood of phone calls and e-mails from high school friends, former colleagues, and, of course, ex-boyfriends who, seeing my Hollywood-style photographs, would regret the moment we had bid adieu. My 15 days of fame were upon me, and I was ready. (A word of wisdom to the 2006 Road Warrior grand-prize winner, Jaime Vogel, who got my vote this year: When you're a professional packer and travel for a living, not even Match.com can help in the dating department.)