I do own a car. Looking at driving directions, it seems that driving from Whitney portal to a put-in on the West side seems agregious (many miles). Am I missing something?"
Oops, I guess I must have confused you. I was referring to one of the East Side trail heads I mentioned, i.e. Baxter/Sawmill/Taboose. I sure didn't mean to suggest driving all the way over to Roads End. You're right, that would be egregious. What I meant was to drive your car to Whitney Portal and arrange for a shuttle to take you up to one of the above mentioned East Side TH's. I haven't used a shuttle in a long time down there, as I generally do trips that start/end at the same TH, but the Mount Whitney Shuttle Service(760-876-1915) seems ot get good reviews on www.highsierratopix.com. There are other shuttle services, but this one is located in Lone Pine, and would have the shortest driving distance(and, therefore, likely the lowest price) between Whitney Portal and one of the East Side TH's we're discussing. It might be worth calling them to find out. This kind of arrangement would definitely be cheaper than flying to Vegas and renting a car. Good luck.