SENTRI Lane – Mission: Impossible

When we first came to visit Baja California last July, we ended up having to wait nearly 3 1/2 hours to cross the border from Tijuana back into the US…the traffic was basically at a standstill, creeping along so slowly that you had plenty of time to walk a quarter mile and back to a so-called bathroom (basically a toilet squeezed into a hallway no bigger than Aaron is wide and where you pay for your ration of 3 squares of toilet paper).  Although it was entertaining seeing the variety of items being sold (anything from smoothies, burritos, and churros, to wooden turtles and even booze delivery right to your car), we said “no mas.” Immediately, we completed a deep background check through Homeland Security and applied to get Global Entry.  This program gives access to SENTRI lanes for expedited border crossing.

So here’s a classic example of how screwy the US government system can be. The process to obtain the Global Entry card consists first of completing lengthy questionnaires.  Then, once approved, you must complete an in-person interview within 6 months…YET, when we had received our application approval, the next available appointment in Denver wasn’t for 9 months! If you don’t complete the interview in the allotted time frame, you are required to start the process all over again. Gotta love US government bureaucracy!

Luckily, Aaron was able to finagle an appointment much sooner.  We made the 45 minute drive to the Denver International Airport for literally a 2 minute “interview” and some fingerprinting.  But we can’t complain…we got our Global Entry cards, which meant no more 3 1/2 hour lines!  That is, of course, assuming you can actually find the SENTRI lane…

Imagine a time in your life when you were the most lost, and most extremely frustrated by not being able to find your way, and now multiply that by 100. That’s what it was like trying to find the SENTRI lane the first couple of times. We tried Google Maps and Waze. WRONG. We tried following the signage in Mexico. Yeah right. You literally make one wrong turn and you are driving in circles, getting nowhere. In fact, it’s so confusing that we even saw a Mexican army Humvee take a wrong turn and had to back up!

Even the Mexican Army gets lost driving through TJ…don’t think their Humvee has SENTRI access…

After multiple failed attempts, and having to wait AGAIN in the regular line for hours, Aaron committed to not crossing the border until he was CERTAIN he knew where he was going. So, like anything else these days, there is a HOW-TO video on how to find the SENTRI lane.  Literally, a step by step visual of which turns to take and when, and the buildings and other markers to pay attention to.  He watched the video at least l2 times and had memorized every step.  And so it was…the 3rd time was a charm and we successfully found it (although the stress during the process could have been enough to lead to a divorce!) – and now we probably could even do it with our eyes closed!

Fun Fact

The San Ysidro border crossing is the busiest land border crossing in the world.  Over 30 million people cross the border there annually.


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