Paul Gilfedder couldn't wait to try his new go-cart, so after his parents went to bed, the 8-year-old boy went for an unsupervised spin.

Hours later, Gilfedder was found standing beside a highway - lost, out of gas and 20 miles from his Cornish home.

"He was scared and tired," said Penny Thorne, who discovered Gilfedder on Route 107 around 4:30 a.m. Friday after mistaking him for a deer. "He is a brave little boy."

The saga began Thursday when Steve and Wendy Gilfedder gave Paul a gas-powered go-cart for his birthday. His mother said he was disappointed that he couldn't drive the cart in the rain, and the boy desperately wanted to show his gift to a friend in Standish.

The Gilfedders parked the cart in the garage, never imagining their son would sneak out in the middle of the night. Paul apparently waited for his parents and three siblings to fall asleep, then opened one of the garage doors and pushed the cart out. He grabbed his father's gas can for extra fuel and headed toward Standish to see his friend.

"He knew the route because we had driven it many times," Wendy Gilfedder said. The family just moved from Standish to Cornish last week.

From her conversations with her son in the past few days, Gilfedder learned that Paul drove along the road as if his cart were a regular car. He drove through Baldwin and into Sebago, where he ran out of gas near the post office. Then the boy started walking back toward home, at one point stopping at a house for help. But the homeowner came to the door with a rifle, and young Paul hid in the bushes, his mother said.

"He was terrified," Wendy Gilfedder said. "I think it was one of the worst nights of his life."

It turned out to be the worst night for his parents as well. They were roused before 5 a.m. by a police officer, who said their son had been found on Route 107. They told the officer their son was sleeping upstairs. Of course, they found the covers on his bed but no Paul.