If thrill-seekers crave the full-tilt Darryl Haley workout -- jogging, weight-lifting and an NFL- excruciating regimen of modified calisthenics -- well, Hail Mary full of grace and best of luck to them. If guests want to pay for a massage or a pedicure, he'll make sure someone is on the premises to provide the pampering. And if guests want nothing more than a place to sleep, breakfast and a chance to ski or hike the area, that's fine, too.
(Oh, about those 15 bikini-clad Brazilians: They had to be reminded that topless sunbathing could be done only on the inn's secluded patios, lest the townspeople of Luray get antsy. But they did inspire Haley to start "Ladies Night In(n)," a package deal for women to "do what women do" for a weekend, including champagne happy hours, chocolate-dipped strawberries, full spa service and color analysis.)
Darryl Haley leads guest through a workout.
(Jay Paul For The Washington Post)
The inn has been open for just three years now, but Haley has no doubt it will be a long-standing success. After all, this is a man who has been taking on -- and smashing flat -- eclectic challenges his whole life.
Growing up in Los Angeles's Inglewood neighborhood, Haley played just one year of high school football before landing a scholarship to the University of Utah. Four years later, he was drafted by the New England Patriots at the start of the 1980-81 season. (This, the man who would one day surprise me with a plate of his homemade cookies.)
On visits to Redskins territory during his NFL travels, Haley fell in love with Washington and its racially harmonious vibe. So it was near the nation's capital that he looked for a spot to launch a high-end inn devoted to high-impact fitness. In 2000, he bought this house in Luray while it was still being built. A year later, he opened Villa Bella Vista. Haley knows he's a bit of an oddity in Luray.
"When's the last time a black man opened a B&B in Luray, Virginia?" he says, laughing. Haley says guests are often flabbergasted when he greets them at the front door. "They're like, 'Hey, who owns this place? Is Darryl around?' I'll say, 'Yeah, he'll be back in a minute.' They eventually figure out I'm the man."
Haley wakes up at 4 a.m. each morning to get a jump on his duties. When the inn is fully booked, he says he has to "anticipate" in order to cater to all of his guests on his own.
It's important to note that Haley, who also competes in Ironman triathlons, walks with a clean stride -- no gimping, no hobbling. He never had a major injury in a decade of warfare in the NFL's bone-crunching trenches. He attributes his sturdy health to "human kinetics," a form of exercise he studied in college that focuses on lesser-used muscles. Kinetics is a crucial part of the workout regimen he provides for guests.
Okay, it's now time for some utterly humiliating disclosure: I am a doughy, 34-year-old man who gets winded on an escalator. However, in the name of immersion journalism, I ask -- after a couple of glasses of fear-smothering wine, that is -- that Haley give me a "kinetic" workout. No weights, no exercise equipment, just modified calisthenics. How bad could it be?
Oh, somebody shoot me.