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From the bride who waited 3 1/2 hours for a marriage license to families forced to pull up stakes at state campgrounds to a homeless couple evicted from a highway rest area, the looming state government shutdown left Minnesotans confused, opinionated and exhausted Thursday.
"The politicians are screwing up everybody's lives," said Craig Englund, 42, of Merrifield, Minn. For three hours, he stood in a packed-like-sardines Anoka County Licensing Center with angry and nervous people attempting to renew licenses and beat the shutdown clock.
"The politicians are morons," said Jamie Williams, 38, of Oak Grove.
To Ashley Jensen, 8, the reason for the shutdown was unclear, but she wasn't happy that she and her cousins had to scramble out of the water at William O'Brien State Park as word spread at 4 p.m. that the parks were closing.
"This is so unfair," she said. "We were going to be here for four days and do lots of fun stuff. It's now all ruined."
Within two hours, nearly all the 130 campsites at William O'Brien were deserted. The water and electricity were being shut off and the buildings were being locked on the eve of the July 4th weekend, typically one of the busiest for state parks.
"This is pretty sad, that they've ruined so many people's summer vacations with their families," said Allen Bjerke, who serves as campground host with his wife, Marge. "The Legislature is behaving like a bunch of kids."
James Lempke of Minneapolis, along with his wife and two kids, stuffed camping gear back into their cars. "We had planned to stay through the weekend," he said. "I didn't think this would really happen. I'm upset because this is my vacation."
Lempke said he "thought about squatting here and having the cops come take us out." Then he got the idea of "camping out at the Capitol."
But Lempke's family quashed the ideas. "He's kind of embarrassing," said his 10-year-old daughter, Meaghen.
Rest stops closed
Earlier Thursday, other signs of the shutdown began to appear along state highways, where rest areas were closed and barricaded. The sign just west of the Maple Grove rest area on Interstate 94 says it's 89 miles to the next rest area. But those who chose to wait for the next stop were in for a surprise after 10 a.m. Thursday, when many rest stops were notified to lock doors and barricade exits.
"You wonder where the homeless people will go now," said Verlyn Hovdestad, a temporary worker hired by the state to be at the Hwy. 10 rest area in Ramsey.
There was concern about truck drivers who need places to rest after 10 hours on the road. Gary Edstrom of Glenville said he saw trucks parked along the highway Wednesday night, when wayside rest areas began closing.
"I think everyone that needs to use the restroom this weekend should go to the governor's house," Edstrom wrote via e-mail.
Racing the clock
Nurses and doctors had until noon Thursday to renew licenses about to expire. More than 700 doctors and nearly 5,000 nurses are due to renew their licenses by the end of July, according to Minnesota's nursing and medical boards. In the past few weeks, there's been a rush by medical professionals who fear a prolonged shutdown might jeopardize the ability to see patients.
Bridget Spaniol, 26, of Minneapolis, waited 3 1/2 hours at the Southdale courthouse for a marriage license, even though she had a morning appointment. "The whole experience ... was terrible," she said in an e-mail. "I feel sorry for anyone trying to get anything processed through the Minnesota government."
Dan Eischens, 54, of Zimmerman, was kicking himself for not having gotten the fishing license he'll crave when he goes to a family reunion at Gull Lake.
Eva Serbus, 17, of Minneapolis, waited so long to get her lost driver's license replaced that she left the Columbia Heights licensing center (which will stay open), went to a Dairy Queen and finished her cone long before her number was called.
"This is just dumb," Serbus, who will be a senior at South High School, said of the state impasse. "Everybody else compromises. Why can't the politicians?"