By BOB JOHNSON
MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Former Alabama Gov. Bob Riley's condition continues to improve as he recovers in a Fairbanks, Alaska, hospital after being injured in a motorcycle accident and his son hopes the former governor will be able to return to Alabama early next week.
"He's doing better. He's still in pain," the former governor's son, Rob Riley, said in a telephone interview from Fairbanks Thursday night.
He said Bob Riley is doing so well that he can joke about how after the accident he had a hard time convincing people that he had just finished serving eight years as the governor of Alabama.
A spokeswoman for Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Lisa Johnson, said Thursday that the former governor's condition has been upgraded from fair to good. She said Riley's vital signs were stable and that he was "conscious and comfortable."
She said Riley's outlook for recovery was considered "good or excellent."
Riley was injured Sunday afternoon in an accident in the rain on a dirt and gravel road north of Fairbanks when he had to put the motorcycle down to avoid losing control. The 66-year-old former governor was on a long planned cross-country motorcycle trip from his hometown, Ashland, to Alaska.
Rob Riley said his father does not regret embarking on the cross-country adventure, even if it did end with him in the hospital with broken ribs and other injuries.
"He said it's one of the greatest things he's ever done," Rob Riley said. He said the former governor had made it to northern Alaska, above the arctic circle, and was returning to Fairbanks on the dirt and gravel road when the accident occurred. He said some men in a truck behind him stopped when they saw the wrecked bike and saw Riley trying to stand up. Rob Riley said it was a remote location with no cell phone coverage so the men put Riley in the back of the truck and drove him to the hospital in Fairbanks.
"It took about two hours to get there on that dirt road," Rob Riley said.
It was during that trip that the men began to wonder whether Riley had it altogether.
"He started asking them what they did for a living and they asked him 'what do you do?' He said 'Well, I've been the governor of Alabama for the last eight years," Riley said. He said the men thought his dad "had been knocked silly" until later when they looked up governor of Alabama on a computer and found the name Bob Riley.
Rob Riley said his dad suffered some internal bleeding around a kidney and that doctors had been concerned because he had been on blood thinning medicine since suffering a blood clot in his lungs in 1997.
"He's doing well now. He had serious injuries. They were not life threatening," Rob Riley said.