Yosemite will probably be fine -- the only problem is an early storm and a requirement to have tire (snow) chains in the car.
So I would suggest having two sets of travel plans -- good weather hit the west side of the Sierras, and if the winter sets in early in the mountains, then hit the coast instead.
But if you go from Joshua Tree towards the west side Sierras, you might consider highway 58 through Tehachapi to Bakersfield. Right before Tehachapi there is a big cement works ("plant" for Denis) that might be fun to photograph from the side road that goes by it. Easily seen from the highway, just double back on the side road at the next highway exit.
Have a great trip, Tony! Too bad you don't have the time to head up here in far northern California and the Redwoods. My wife is an Aussie and it would have been fun to meet you.