Rod Blagojevich left his Ravenswood Manor home Thursday and entered federal prison.
The convicted former governor departed just after 6 a.m. to fly to Colorado and the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Englewood to begin serving his 14-year sentence.
"Saying goodbye is the hardest thing I've ever had to do," Blagojevich told a swarm of reporters as he left his house. "I'm leaving with a heavy heart and a clear conscience, but I have high, high hopes for the future."
"I'll see you guys when I see ya," he said before a car drove him to O'Hare Airport, "and I'll see ya around."
At O'Hare, Blagojevich signed more autographs before going through security with Attorney Aaron Goldstein. His wife, Patti, and two kids were not with him. He continued shaking hands with TSA workers and taking photos.
When a reporter asked him if he had any last words for supporters, Blagojevich said, "I'm grateful to them, and God willing, I'll see them soon."
He boarded Flight 3612, leaving Chicago at 7:30 a.m. His agent said he blocked all the seats around him. Blagojevich sat in the second-to-last row on the plane, next to Goldstein and across the aisle from Attorney Sheldon Sorosky. The former governor appeared in a good mood, talking to reporters surrounding him.
The 50 some passengers on the flight were all abuzz about Blagojevich being on their flight. Some of them were happy, but some not.
One passenger said he's just happy to see Blagojevich wasn't in first class. "He's cost this state enough." Another said he hopes the former governor's appearance doesn't delay the flight. "I have a meeting to get to."
The pilot threatened to return to the gate if anyone pulled out a camera.
The flight arrived around 9 a.m. Denver time. Technically Blagojevich won't need to report to prison until midnight Thursday, but he rode in a black SUV straight to the prison.
"I have to go to prison," Blagojevich said outside his house. "That's a hard word for me to say. ... But that is the reality as it is today and now we have to face this."
Once he's there, Blagojevich will be assigned to a two- or four-man room. He'll need to be up at 6:30 a.m. every day and will be assigned a job, mostly likely latrine duty because it's typically given to newcomers.
Blagojevich will now have his mail opened and read before he ever sees it. He will have to submit a list of just 30 people he will be allowed to call, and those calls will be limited to a total of just 300 minutes a month.
"They are going to be hard on him," said Wendy Feldman, a prison consultant and coach. "Other inmates are going to be exceptionally hard on him."