SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) -- The City by the Bay has rolled out the red carpet for some unlikely VIP's. A Kansas couple, who built a large replica of the Golden Gate Bridge, is visiting San Francisco for the first time.
On Monday, Larry and Barbara Richardson flew in from their farm near Wichita to get a firsthand look at the real thing.
Larry Richardson actually caught a glimpse of the bridge 43 years ago when he was a 19-year-old soldier shipping out to Vietnam. He never forgot that sight.
"It's like the last thing you see of the United States, 'til you get back," said Richardson.
He was always hoping he would get back to San Francisco, but that never happened. So after the war, he decided to build his own Golden Gate Bridge on his farm.
Larry had a postcard – and he copied it. It was a labor of love that took him 11 years and cost $4,000.
KCBS' Chris Filippi Reports:
"It was all hand done. The cement was mixed by hand and a wheelbarrow, the whole thing. Hung the pillars one at a time."
San Francisco Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius first told the story, and readers demanded the couple visit.
"Everyday people just sent emails, contributions, bouquets of flowers," said Nevius. "This is just one of those stories that touches people, one of those feel good stories."
It touched hotel owner Jon Handlery. He offered the couple a complimentary suite.
"They said, 'Well we just got to get tickets for the bus.' I went, I don't think so. I'll pay for the airfare," Handlery said.
It was Barbara Richardson's first plane ride. She was scared at first, worried it might crash.
Not anymore, after looking out that window as soon as the plane took off.
"Awesome," she said, "the ground was oh so beautiful. Then when we came over to San Francisco and the clouds moved, it was just like wow!"
The Richardson's have flown thousands of miles to see what the Bay Area takes for granted. But it's going to be another two days before they get the grand bridge tour.
First, they are set to go on a bay cruise, then cable car rides and sightseeing. And everything has been donated by businesses and just plain folks.
The Richardson's are grateful to everyone.
"This is a beautiful city," Larry Richardson said. "You know, not to sound kind of corny or anything, but I can understand that song with the lyrics 'you left your heart in San Francisco.'"
The Richardson's have already stolen San Francisco's hearts.
(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
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