Chris’s parents throw him a party, and he gives his dad an expensive telescope and a moving speech of thanks. He then leaves for his first road trip, which takes him across the country, and lasts until two days before the fall semester starts at Emory. He returns back thirty pounds lighter, and very scruffy looking. Near the end of his trip, he had gotten lost in the Mojave Desert, and almost died of dehydration. When Walt tries to encourage Chris to exercise more caution in the future, Chris bristles at this, and becomes even more unforthcoming about his plans.
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After graduation Chris tells them that he is intending to spend the summer traveling, and then a few weeks later he writes them a note with his final transcript, which will be the last communication he ever offers to his family. When they go to stop by his apartment in August—he doesn’t have a phone—they find that he moved out at the end of June without telling them. Five weeks earlier he had packed up all of his belongings and driven off in his beloved old Datsun, changing his name to Alex Supertramp to symbolically complete cutting himself off from his past.