I have never raced cross. I want to race cross. I think you should, too. Every race I have been to, to watch, I have been more and more inspired. Not only does it look like it hurts, but it looks like it's fun. The fandamonium atmosphere at so many of these is great. I can't explain it. It's like all these beareded, burley men come out to play and they slap on some lycra and get after it. Women, too.
Cyclocross has been exploding across the United States over the past few years, and you should join in on the fun. Even if you don't race, go check them out. It is quite the atmosphere.
When it comes to the bikes. There are plenty to choose from. I obviously have my allegiences with Trek, but that being said, plenty of bikes are out there for you to get on. From entry level to pro level, there is a great range of prices to get you on a bike.
Cyclocross bikes are very versatile. They can act like a road bike and a mountain bike (to an extent). They can be great for commuting or for just putzing around town. With a wide variety of tire choices from narrow road, to wide and nobby cross tires, you can conquer all sorts of terrain, all on one bike. You can go from limestone trails one day, to the smooth flats of the asphalt the next, followed by the roots and mud and rocks of the cross terrain.
Now that cross season is about to start, nobody will shut up about it. Especially around the Madison area and in the bike shops. It's like every other bike has been packed away and people are stopping shaving their legs and putting on their mountain bike shoes and mounting their nobbies.
You should, too.