I really want to try cyclocross because it looks super-fun. Currently I have a road bike that I use for long rides, group rides, and triathlon, and I have a crappy old hybrid that I don't really use. I don't have a lot of money (the roadie was a recent purchase), so I'm not really able to spend a huge sum of money on a new bike, especially if I don't even know if I like the sport. I'd prefer a steel frame/fork, since I figure I'm going to beat the hell out of this bike, and I'd also like to be able to use it for my commute. (That way, I could use some of the local crushed-limestone bike paths that aren't really suitable for a road bike.)
Trouble is, I'm too little for the cross frames I know about that I can afford. (A few manufacturers are making cx bikes for women, but they're either aluminum/carbon or like $2500, which is out of my budget.) I'm 5'4" with about a 28.25" inseam (yeah, my legs are really short...) I can just barely clear the top tube of my road bike, which has a SO height of 28.1" -- most of the cyclocross bikes I've seen, their smallest frame size has a SO of 28.8" or 29". I figure it's even more important to have some clearance on a cross bike, lest I fracture my crotch bone or something.
I was wondering if it might be feasible to try to find a steel road frame that fits me, and then try to mutate it into something I can use for cyclocross. Is this worth trying, or should I save up my pennies for a few years, get a spendy bike, and hope that both I like the sport and don't wreck the bike? If you guys think it's worth trying, what gearing, etc. would you recommend?