Some young people liked the idea. But even criminals I know, people that were in jail who are friends, were really uptight about me doing this. Even Leslie [Van Houten], my friend who used to be in the Manson family, thought it was a terrible idea.

I didn't realize how really scared my friends were until I got close to going, and then it started making me nervous. They were making me scared.

And when it was over, people's relief, it shocked me. Mink [Stole] was crying on the phone. To me, I was really flattered when people were that worried, but I was surprised by it. I wasn't that worried.

But you didn't tell your mom?

No. My mom was not in great health, and I was going to tell her the day I landed [in San Francisco]. But the story broke because Here We Go Magic, the rock group, picked me up and tweeted it.

Once it started spreading, it went like wildfire; soon after, Spin magazine did a piece. And then I told my sisters, "You'd better tell her." They did tell her, and she didn't react at all.

Because it was normal. When I went to Calvert Hall, I was supposed to hitchhike around. It wasn't thought of as dangerous. The same perverts were picking us up then, but it wasn't thought of, oddly enough, as … I know all the private school kids, Gilman, St. Paul, they all hitchhiked.

What was the high point, what was the most unexpected event of the trip?

The most unexpected event of the trip was when The Corvette Kid came back, actually drove 48 hours at 80 miles an hour to give me a second ride — from Myersville, Md., where he was going to go get his lunch after he dropped me off. He went home, thought about it, and then drove back in his car and caught up with me in Denver.

He was great. He was an adventurer. It was fun.

That was the most amazing thing, because when he said he was coming back, I was stuck, I was eating horrible food. I would be stuck in the worst place ever, which is Bonner Springs [Kansas] — I call it Boner Springs. I was stuck there forever.

Then he caught up with me, only because he went so fast. The whole time he said that he was coming, I didn't know really until the day before. I thought he could be making this up; you know, hackers sit in their room and do anything, having a good laugh.

But he did show up. And we had a little vacation.

It was funny — everybody else was stupefied by it, "What's with this kid?" His friends would say, "Oh great, you're with a gay man in a hotel in Reno? That's good; I thought you were going to go get your lunch at Subway."

And he's a Republican elected official at 19 in Myersville. I said, "Your opponent's gonna use me against you." But I thought, "Who wouldn't vote for somebody who took that kind of adventure?"

How about the lowest point?

The lowest point was when, in Bonner Springs, after standing for 10 hours, I had to walk all the way back, because I was out of water, to where the hotels were. That's when I told Susan, "I'm going to drink my own urine."

It was so hot, and I was living in gas station lavatories. I went into a Taco Bell, hoping that I would be recognized, that somebody would help me. Then I had to walk all the way back, through that construction site, with dogs barking. …There weren't any dogs, but I kept thinking there was going to be some junkyard dog chasing me. Then I finally got a ride.

Of all my rides, he's the only one I didn't completely bond with, but still. … He was fine, believe me. He got me out of there.

Every one of them was a savior.