In a stroke of remarkable coincidence, featured exhibits included L.A. artist Ed Ruscha's "On The Road" paintings, a look back at Jack Kerouac's 1957 Beat novel of the same name, both paying tribute to the centrality of the road trip in America's life and imagination.
"I was surprised because people walked here and people never walk," said gallery security guard Katrina Blanchard, 22. "Whole families came out of the woodwork."
Halfway into the planned 53-hour shutdown of the country's busiest artery, Angelenos celebrated the uneventfulness of it all – even as news helicopters continued droning overhead along the 10-mile freeway stretch, from Interstate 10 to U.S. 101, closed for widening and for demolition of half the Mulholland Bridge spanning the freeway.
At Arturo's Shoe Fixx in Beverly Hills, known for its expert repairs and restoration of designer shoes and handbags crammed from floor to ceiling, Ari Libaridian, 34, grandson of the store's octogenarian owner Arturo Azinian, was enjoying the easy pace of the weekend.
"I think they did a really good job of scaring everybody," he said.
At 7:30 p.m. Friday, just as freeway ramps were closing, he made the trek along the 101, from Encino in the San Fernando Valley to his home in the Hollywood Hills in just 10 minutes. "Never in my life has it taken me just 10 minutes," he said. "There was nobody on the road. It was great!"
Libaridian said he could see the benefit of the open roads on the shop's customers: "They're all in a good mood because there isn't any traffic outside."
Simon Mkrtchyan, a veteran L.A. cabdriver who hails from Armenia, welcomed the relative calm. For a summer Saturday, he said, demand for cabs was slower than usual. He attributed that to the slew of dire Carmageddon warnings.
"People are smart. They understand," he said, speculating that many simply moved to Monday lots of activities requiring driving. Still, he said, by 4 p.m. on Saturday, he'd already driven twice to LAX and been to Brentwood, and he was still smiling. "I know L.A. It's like a family," he said. "They know what they're doing."
About 500 of them took advantage of offers Friday and Saturday nights to sleep either in UCLA dorm rooms or Tiverton House , a hospital-run hotel in Westwood Village, or in a brand-new hospital tower at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center scheduled to open in early 2012, said Roxanne Yamaguchi Moster, director of UCLA Health Sciences media relations.
"We're grateful and want to thank our employees, who are extremely dedicated and committed to providing the highest level of patient care during this Carmageddon freeway closure weekend that turned into Carma-Heaven," she said.
Angelenos love their movie sequels.
So officials can only hope residents won't have become complacent 11 months from now when the remaining half of the Mulholland Bridge comes down in Carmageddon II.