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Rocky Loessin stood on top of a mountain in Alaska’s Chugach State Park and took a deep breath of clean, crisp air. His eyes were watering from the sting of the atmosphere at altitude, and his heart felt like it was about to jump out of his chest because of the vertical ascent. But his lungs felt good. And his head was clear. He wasn’t on a run-of-the-mill day hike, nor was he training for the Ironman. Rocky was simply doing what Rocky does: He was traveling for traveling’s sake. While many of us punch in at sunup and punch out at dusk, this is Rocky’s routine. He spends a fairly good cross section of the year tending bar in Columbus, Ohio, and stockpiles his tips for his biggest expense: “trip cash,” as he calls it. This year’s trip brought him to the wilds of Alaska.

For about an hour, as the autumn sun sat on high and lit the Cook Inlet and the city of Anchorage below, Rocky cast an untrammeled glance in all directions. His breathing tapered, and he muttered a couple of words to me -- the first words that had been spoken during the trip.

“I should have entered Road Warrior,” he said. “It’s a competition that’s tailor-made for people like me.”

I hated being the bearer of bad news in those pristine parts, for although this was what Rocky does, this was nothing short of a stress reliever/quasi-vacation for me and I didn’t want to talk shop. Yet, he put it out there, so I had to address the issue. Rocky and people like him will have to wait until next year to enter Road Warrior. However, his sect, as well as everyone else out there, can still very much be a part of the selection process. We have chosen our five finalists. Now, it’s up to all of you to choose the winner.

Take a moment to visit www.americanwaymag.com/roadwarrior and vote for our grand-prize winner. This year, she or he will receive two million Hilton HHonors bonus points and one million AAdvantage bonus miles, redeemable for travel to Alaska, for accommodation in posh surrounds upon arrival, or for travel to anywhere else around the globe. And while the winner will be going for free, Rocky will still be paying.

Second prize is a Bose Lifestyle 48 home entertainment system, a pair of Bose Quiet- Comfort 3 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones, and a Bose Wave music system, as well as a five-night trip for two to the Hilton Papagayo Resort in Costa Rica, courtesy of American Airlines Vacations. And this winner will also get a Panasonic Toughbook W7 laptop computer, which rounds out the best second-place prize in history.

Three third-prize winners will receive a three-night trip for two to the British Colonial Hilton in Nassau, Bahamas, also courtesy of American Airlines Vacations, and a Panasonic Toughbook W7 laptop computer.

But what about Rocky? He -- and you -- will be entered in a drawing for 100,000 AAdvantage bonus miles and 200,000 Hilton HHonors bonus points just by voting. You can cast your ballot from now until 11:59 p.m. on November 14, 2008. Hurry, because you know that Rocky will be throwing his double-knit wool hat into the ring.

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Adam Pitluk
Editor