Yeah, the column shifter is kind of a pain, but I usually drop mine into 3rd anyway when I need to pass someone on a narrow road and don't want to deal with delay of the automatic shifting. Drove a manual for years, so that'* just how I've always operated.
Sometimes I'll put it into 3rd on hills so it'* not revving up into 4th and then dropping back to 3rd over and over, though lately I've just started driving slower to improve my gas mileage. I also all three manual gears, depending on the speed limit, to use the engine compression to keep things in control on downhill slopes when traction is bad.
Anyway, never had any trouble dropping from highway speeds to 3rd gear, and we're talking Montana highway speeds here. Interstate is 75, and the highway patrol usually won't bother you unless you're doing something really flagrant..