This mixed idiom is similar to “long road to hoe”, posted April 25, 2013. The phrases in this malaphor include “long road”, “tough row to hoe”, and “a mountain to climb”, all meaning tough or difficult situations. John Costello heard this on the HBO series True Detective, episode 5. Marty is trying to get back with Maggie. Maggie says “you have a long road to climb.” Of course, if you lived in or visited Pittsburgh or San Francisco, you might hear this one used literally. Thanks to John Costello for this one.
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.