This is a mash up of “tough row to hoe” and “long road”, both meaning long, difficult situations. Row and road sound similar, adding to the confusion. I saw this one in today’s morning Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
“I’m very happy. It’s been a long road to hoe,” Mr. Berry, the project architect, said as he took photographs of the mostly finished product and checked for any problems that needed to be fixed.
This beauty was overheard in a meeting by my friend Gerry. The speaker, who is about to retire, said that she did not want to be around “when the rubber hits the fan”. This malaphor combines “where the rubber meets the road” (the moment of truth) and “when the shit hits the fan” (a messy consequence from a secret about to be made public). Both indicate something about to happen, hence the mix-up. Any other thoughts?