Mike, you could have started a new topic.
If you can snag even a day hike permit starting next day, as long as you grab it by 4 PM, AND you can reach the Wilderness Permit person: 760-873-2483, you can ask that they put the permit in the night-box (in the kiosk by the road, in front of the Visitor Center south of Lone Pine).
You could drive up and pick up your permit that evening, and start hiking super early in the morning.
If you are overnight hiking, you don't need to start so early, so could pick it up next morning.
The difficult part in the phone call is that if someone else is on the line, it rings about 10 times, then disconnects, and you have to re-dial. And sometimes, their phone system is down and you can't get through at all.
As far as driving up first, this late in the season, you should be able to get the permit using your phone to connect (I haven't tried that). But I would rather reserve the permit from home first, myself.