It’s Thursday morning, and I’m sitting here with my computer and my cup of coffee (and, of course, my BlackBerry). As I write this, I’m looking out to the ocean through a stand of palm trees.

To my right is a dolphin lagoon where I watch the li’l fellas play a game of what looks like tag. Obviously, I’m not at my desk in Dallas/Fort Worth. Instead, I’m working in what makes nearly everyone’s top 10 list for the ultimate destination: Kona, Hawaii.

In eight hours, I’ll be headed to the airport to greet this year’s Ultimate Road Warriors. And thanks to the Hilton Waikoloa Village, I have the perfect place to work while I wait for them.

As you’ll see on the following pages, this year’s road warriors were a fun bunch. (And one of the winners, Jodie Brinkerhoff, was a finalist last year!) Although the time we spent in Hawaii was jam-packed with setting up and tearing down at each photo-shoot location, we managed to pack in a lot of laughs and stories.

Thanks to the hard work of J.R. Arebalo, our design director;­ Sean McCormick, the photographer; and Austin Loch-heed, Sean’s assistant, everything went incredibly smoothly. But even as great as these guys are, we couldn’t have gotten the shots we wanted, when and where we wanted them, without the help of Debbie Hogan and Meredith Wertz — the director of sales and marketing, and the marketing/public relations ­coordinator, respectively — at the Hilton Waikoloa Village.

No matter what our request, these girls went out of their way to make it happen. Can you drive an eight-foot limo on the walking path to this site we love? Can we build a bonfire (okay, campfire) on the beach? What about guys in tuxes? Can you get us those? In 30 minutes? Regardless of what we asked, they always said just two words (to our faces): of course.

That was actually our experience with everyone at the hotel. And they weren’t nice only to us. This staff was one of the most accommodating I’ve seen. And combined with the incredible beauty of the property, I would have been perfectly happy to stay (and not work) for weeks.

I also owe a big thanks to the American Way staffers who were left behind while J.R. and I jetted off to Hawaii. The Road Warrior issue is always the hardest issue we do, and this one was no different. Everyone had a hand in reading through the almost 9,000 entries and narrowing it down to our top 20. (We definitely have Hilton, AAdvantage, Bose, Panasonic, and T-Mobile to thank for attracting all of these people with the great prizes they offered.)

Lots of late nights and weekends were spent reading the entries, and then additional full days were eaten up debating and discussing who would ascend to the top five, what other stories we wanted to include, who was going to gather the seemingly infinite amount of information … the list goes on.

So as you read all these great stories and tips from our road warriors, think about Anna, Betsy, Caleb, Carrie, Chris, James, Jennifer, Leah, Sam, Travis, and Zac. Because without them, you’d have nothing to read or look at.

And also start thinking about your entry for next year’s contest. In the meantime, we’re all going to take a well-deserved nap.

Picture of Sheri Burns